A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that a subplot involves Lord Longford's investigations into the effects of pornography, and he is shown personally visiting adult bookstores, a peep show with topless dancers, and reading through pornographic magazines. There is rough language in a prison setting, with use of "s--t" and "f--k." A true-life child-killing murder spree is discussed (thankfully, not in gory forensic detail) as the ultimate in ghastly horror, and scenes of the vengeful parents are apparently actual news clips. A key character smokes frequently; it is shown to have dire effects on her health, though. The DVD, originally a movie for British TV, carries a "TV-MA" rating.
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What's the story?
A British TV movie, LONGFORD, tells a true story of some of the UK's more notorious 20th-century criminals and their relationship to an eccentric, idealistic member of the House of Lords. Lord Longford (Jim Broadbent), is well-liked but marginalized in the British Parliament, apparently not taken too seriously by fellow politicians. A wealthy publisher who champions the causes of convicts, he visits inmates and helps prisoners upon their release. Longford thus gets summoned by one of the most hated individuals in the British Isles -- Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton), who, with her lover Ian Brady (Andy Serkis) tortured and murdered children in the mid-1960s, and was sentenced to life. Longford jeopardizes his reputation by claiming she was also victimized by Brady and deserves parole.
Is it any good?
Key details may be lost on non-British viewers (DVD extras and commentary help), though superb acting and themes of forgiveness, betrayal, and strength of character translate well. Longford is portrayed as an intelligent, if naïve, champion of society's outcasts, even when the cause is unpopular. It's too bad the movie sidesteps the many non-famous prisoners whom Longford comforted. They include AIDS sufferers who were cut off from any human contact otherwise. Instead there's an odd subplot where he embarks on an anti-porn crusade, sampling sex shops and reading dirty magazines in bed to his wife. Maybe it's meant to show his open-mindedness -- he studies porn-peddlers with the polite diligence he would a government report -- or his impracticality.
We're tipped off forebodingly at the start that something terrible happened to upset Longford's public support for Hindley and undermined the old gent's reputation. Thanks mainly to The Silence of the Lambs, when Longford has repeated cellblock consults with the most "evil" people imaginable it's impossible not to think of arch-villain Hannibal Lecter, and some viewers may feel misled when what ultimately transpires between Hindley, Brady, and Longford is more quiet and subtle than a spectacular prison break or renewed murder rampage.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the themes of spirituality and forgiveness. Was Lord Longford wrong for believing that Myra was worthy of clemency? Does he actually bring about a change in her by the end? What about his other work with prisoners, and his assertion that Myra Hindley got unnecessarily harsh treatment mainly because of her gender? You can talk in general terms about taking a moral stand for an unpopular person or cause. Are there more movies or news stories about this that you can think of?
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