My Boy Jack

(Note:  This post contains spoilers)

Last night I watched “My Boy Jack” on PBS.  It is a movie about Rudyard Kipling and his son, Jack, during World War I.  David Haig played Kipling, Daniel Radcliff played Jack, and Kim Cattrell played Carrie Kipling, Rudyard’s American wife.  I admit that I only wanted to watch this because of Daniel Radcliff.  I wanted to see him as someone other than Harry Potter.  I wanted to see if he could do it.  I believe he succeeded quite well.

Jack and Harry are not at all the same type of character, so there was actual acting involved here.  If anything, Jack is more like Daniel Radcliff, what with the desire to prove himself as more than what other’s see him as.  In Jack’s case, it is to be his own man, not just “Rudyard Kipling’s son”, and in Daniel’s case it’s to be more than just Harry Potter and be considered a serious actor in his profession.

The story is a beautiful piece of work as it shows quite well the Kipling family at a time period and part of the world that was expected to act a certain way.  It is at the beginning of the war, and Jack, who is just 17, wants to join the navy.  However, he is very nearsighted and cannot see without his glasses.  He is rejected by the navy.  Jack then goes to the army, where is he also rejected… twice.  His father uses his own influence to get Jack in, and off he goes.  Jack becomes an officer and helps prepare his platoon to go to France to fight the Germans.

(Aside:  My favorite line from the movie is when Jack first meets his platoon.  He asks each of the men why they are in the army.  He then says, “You all volunteered to be here.  I want you to remember that in a week when you want to shoot my head off.”  I think Ches needs to use that in marching band!  heh.)

Jack and his platoon indeed to go to France and stay in the trenches, getting ready to do their part.  The day after he turns 18, Jack led his platoon into battle.  His family received a telegram informing them that Jack is missing and presumed injured.  Because he was missing, that gave the Kipling family enough hope to search for Jack.  They spent a year and a half interviewing people and going through records and pictures before they finally found a member of Jack’s platoon who could tell what happened.  Ultimately, Jack was 18 and 1 day old when he was killed in a war.

The emotional toll this takes on the family is almost overwhelming.  Jack’s parents and sister are each consumed with grief, and must heal.  I’m sure it took a long time, and while you can never fully get over the death of a loved one, it seems each member of the family found peace.  The end of the movie has Rudyard visiting his friend, the King, who has just lost his own son to illness.  Rudyard then quotes his own poem, which I found so beautiful.

“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
!

I enjoyed the film, and I think you will too.  If you get a chance to watch it, to it.  Just be warned… I think you’ll cry.  I certainly did.

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4 responses to “My Boy Jack

  1. I so wanted to see this movie. I missed it and probably will miss it again tonight. Bummer for me. To much going on with the house buying thingy to watch a lot of TV lately.

  2. I saw part of it one night but i didn’t realize that was what it was. The scene where he is talking to his men is actually the only scene I saw. I liked the line but as I didn’t know what it was I thought it was weird to see him having “Harry” mannerisms (in the way his mouth twitched) and he not being Harry. I’m sure if I saw it from the beginning I wouldn’t have though of him as Harry but as i only saw that one scene it was just weird.

    The boys wanted to watch it but since I hadn’t seen it before i wasn’t about to let them watch a show that may or may not be too adult for them.

    If it so happens to be on again in the future I may watch it.

  3. Remember the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling? It was writen to his son. The poem you quoted has a similar tone, insofar that I think the man who wrote “If” must indeed, have been proud of the son for whom he wrote the quoted poem. If you see this is going to be on again, would you give me a heads-up, please. Sounds quite good.

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