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Rumbelle

My Boy Jack

I just finished watching ITV's production of "My Boy Jack," with David Haig, Daniel Radcliffe, Kim Cattrall and Carey Mulligan. It's the story of Rudyard Kipling's son who, because of his severe myopia, had been rejected from the Navy and the Army and was unable to find a way to join WWI.

Rudyard, who believed so strongly and passionately about the war, used his influence and name to get his son enlisted with the Irish Guards. The film begins with Kipling visiting the King, all pomp and rightful indignation at the Germans, voicing his anger and propaganda at rallies and public meetings. Once war has been announced he is even more adamant that every man should go the frontlines and those who don't should be shunned. This view remains firmly imprinted on his mind, even as he hears that on the first day of battle over 11,000 men have been slaughtered - and they didn't even win the battle.

I'm not normally one to be emotional on seeing films, because I really feel I haven't had a chance to get to know the characters properly in just two hours to feel anything more than just a 'little bad' when something happens to them, but this film moved me.

Kim Cattrall did really well as Carrie Kipling, as did Carrie Mulligan as her daughter Bird, but it is Daniel Radcliffe and David Haig who shine in this piece. I was amazed at the calm of Jack Kipling at eighteen years and one day old, as he lead men - all a lot older than him - over the top. His dedication to continue forward to the second German trenches, because they were his orders, staggered me.

But it was David Haig as Rudyard Kipling that truly evoked emotion in me. The English 'stiff upper lip' was very much in play, but to see the slow dawning of realisation that Jack was not coming back, and it was him who had sent him over there, was amazing. When Jack goes missing, he questions the War, why they were fighting, why he sent his son over there when others wouldn't.

But these flashes lasted just moments. Even after hearing the confirmation of Jack's death, and the way in which he died from an Irish soldier, he seemed to allow himself only small moments of grieving before he would act as if he was perfectly fine.

But it's the final scene that shows the true turnaround of Kipling. As in the opening scene he is in a grand room with the King who seems a little awkward and ill at ease. At first I believed it was because Jack's death had been confirmed, but as it goes on it becomes clear it is the King's younger son Arthur who has died. He took a fit in his room and died on the bed, his body was still warm when his father came to him.

During the Kings speech about Arthur's death, the camera focuses on Haig, with a smile on his face, and I suddenly remembered Kipling never found in son's body in all his years of searching for it.

Clearing his throat, Haig recites Kipling's poem "My Boy Jack," with such emotion and feeling, that I must admit a few tears fell.

I didn't expect to be moved by this drama, but I was. It was beautifully done, and I am glad I had the opportunity to see it

My Boy Jack
By Rudyard Kipling

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

Comments

This was a lovely post, my friend. Thanks for making it. It was a joy to read.
I personally found the film powerful, and David Haig in particular, very moving. If they show it in the States I hope a lot of people watch it, because all we ever hear about the 'figures' of soldiers, or civilians, killed in the war. Sometimes we need reminding that they're people not figures. :)
As someone with a nephew in Iraq on his third tour, who has seen numerous friends and acquaintances and innocent bystanders blown-up, I know too well.