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In spite of some liberties being taken with events and personages for
dramatic effect, this is a remarkably well-done retelling of the first
four years after Franklin Roosevelt was stricken with infantile
This version is less sentimental and perhaps more truthful than
"Sunrise at Campobello", Dory Shary's play and film, from 1958 and
1960, covering the same events. Perhaps that is because many of the
people involved were still living at the time, and the events and
personages were still in living memory for so many in the audience for
that piece, in 1960.
This version, however, minces no words and does not turn away from the
grim reality of all the challenges Franklin faced, emotional and
physical, in dealing with his illness. The performances of all involved
are excellent. It is a challenge to portray people so well known to so
many, and these actors, all of them, shine in their roles.
Central to all of this of course must be the performance of the actor
playing FDR. For many, after "Sunrise at Campobello", only Ralph
Bellamy could play Roosevelt, and he did it with great panache, even to
repeating his performance twice, twenty and thirty years later, in the
miniseries "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" in the 80s.
Without a doubt Kenneth Branagh gives what must be one of the best
performances on film I have ever seen. He never descends to caricature
or impersonation, he does not really look like FDR, he only gives
suggestions of Franklin's speech rhythms and accent. But this actor
inhabits the character as written so completely, with such wide
emotional, physical and vocal range that I for one was totally
convinced. This is truly a great film performance, worthy of any awards
that it gets. And I hope it is recognized.
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