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Loving Walter
Loving Walter
Actors: Ian McKellen, Barbara Jefford, Arthur Whybrow, Tony Melody, David Ryall
Director: Stephen Frears
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
UR     2003     2hr 8min

Sir Ian McKellen gives a knockout performance as a mentally challenged man dealing with the harsh realities of the world. From birth, Walter has always been a fighter. Through his own grueling efforts, he learns to read a...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Ian McKellen, Barbara Jefford, Arthur Whybrow, Tony Melody, David Ryall
Director: Stephen Frears
Creators: Chris Menges, Mick Audsley, Nigel Evans, Patrick Cassavetti, Richard Creasey, David Cook
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Studio: Bfs Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 12/02/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 2hr 8min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Mesmerizing Film
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"LOVING WALTER is one of those films that sticks in your gut long after the credits are finished. Originally made in 1981 as a film for British television (actually there are two films here, loosely tied) and written by David Cook, LOVING WALTER relates the story of a mentally challenged child born to parents who consider him "one of God's mistakes" and keep him isolated as a child tending pigeons with his silent but caring father and his enduringly patient but highly resentful mother. His father dies and Walter is left with his pity-party mother until she, too, dies, though her corpse is kept by the needy Walter in a room with his pigeons. His parents' death having 'released him into the world', Walter soon finds a new home in a mental institution managed by, among others, Jim Broadbent (in a terrifically bizarre performance) and finds his purpose in tending other less able patients. He stays there from age 21 to age 40 and this is where the film changes. Apparently the original film was released at this point. This DVD form of the film continues with the admission of women to the mental institution, among them a fragile but forceful Sarah Miles who convinces Walter to leave with her and live in the filthy sector of London. Love ensues, wanes, and Walter survives, perhaps not in a winning way but he does find some solace at film's close. This second half of the film is poorly edited with what seem like breaks for commercials. But this is the only negative aspect to the flow of the total film. Sir Ian McKellan imbues Walter with total credibility, creating an unforgettable character about whom we care deeply. His entire body is 'challenged' and his few lines of dialogue are all the more poignant because of this subtle, subdued performance. Sarah Miles once again proves that she is a consummate actress as the quite mad, sexaholic misfit. Top honors, however, go to Stephen Frears (whose past films include 'My Beautiful Launderette', Dirty Pretty Things', 'The Grifters', 'Dangerous Liaisons', and 'Prick Up Your Ears') for his extraordinary sensitivity in directing actors and extras alike in a factual, tough to observe, heartrending (without the excess of saccharine) picture of the life in a mental institution. The cinematography is gritty and apropos and the slight music score is additive rather than distracting. A truly remarkable film."
Masterful acting from McKellen in a very nonsyrupy movie.
benxkim | Durham, NC | 12/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"If any of you have seen THE OTHER SISTER featuring Juliette Lewis and Giovanni Ribisi playing mentally challenged characters, you might cringe at the thought of seeing any more movies with "normal" actors portraying such roles. However, I must say that LOVING WALTER is quite different and well worth watching. A British production (filmed for the UK's Channel Four), it's a very unflinching look at Walter, a mentally challenged man who has to deal with the hard lot in life that he's been dealt. He loses his parents and has to survive being in a mental institution with all manner of disabled people (both mental and handicapped), but makes himself useful to the staff and patients by being an assistant minder of sorts.McKellen is amazing in his subtlety (not so much dialogue, but a lot of communication through his expressions, actions, and mannerisms), and there are very few moments of comic relief provided at the character's expense. (I was often nervously anticipating some scene where Walter makes a complete fool of himself in front of people a la THE OTHER SISTER but thankfully there weren't any such moments.) His physical transformation--with false teeth, awful haircut and shuffling gait--only adds to the utter believability of the Walter character. It's also interesting to hear him use a more Northern accent (when he does speak).The direction and story (by Stephen Frears and David Cook, respectively) don't sugarcoat anything, and the bleak situations Walter goes through make him almost Job-like...without the happy ending. The first half of the DVD (which was originally broadcast as its own movie) is grim and heartwrenching, but the second half almost veers into campy, madcap hilarity with an escape plan from the mental institution. Luckily (relatively speaking), our hero Walter does not ride off into the sunset with the girl--far from it. It's a real bummer of a movie, so caveat emptor. Still, it's a very good film and a real treat to see McKellen in a very different role than one we're used to seeing him do. Fans of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST and CHARLY will find a lot to like in this movie--a man who somehow doesn't give up, even when society seems to have given up on him...and doesn't necessarily live happily ever after.The DVD has new interviews with author David Cook, Ian McKellen and director Stephen Frears, as well as a text-only feature detailing some "futile" remedies for mental illness from the past. I would have liked to have seen extra scenes, as well as perhaps a commentary, but I suppose not every DVD in the world has to have all those goodies."