SECOND BEST is about a 42-year old Welsh man (William Hurt) who
has never been married and has hardly ever even had a girlfriend. He
decides to adopt a boy, but being a single man, he is told that he will
only be offered older boys who are mentally disturbed.
A 10 year old boy (Christopher Miles) comes to live with him in
his tiny Welsh village where he is the postmaster and local grocer. As
promised, this boy is troubled. He comes from a LORD OF THE FLIES sort
of past, and his Dad (Keith Allen), whom he loves dearly, has been in
prison for a long time. He and his Dad made a pact, before his Dad
left to go to prison, to love each other more than anyone else forever.
The show happens as much in the past as in the present and tells
not only the boy's past but Hurt's as well. The interest in the show
is provided by Hurt's character more than the boy's although the script
was written, I think, to have the movie center around the boy.
Hurt plays a repressed man who looks at the world as if he is
scared to venture into it. The scenes where the boys trashes his house
and he just stares without speaking were a bit much even for his
withdrawn character. I did not buy these scenes. On the whole though,
Hurt plays it very convincingly, and you feel really sorry for him.
The main problem in the show for me was the casting of the boy.
He was supposed to be an enigma, but he carried it overboard. During
most of the movie it was hard to understand anything at all about what
the boy was feeling and hence hard to empathize with him. The director
(Chris Menges) should have realized this and given him better guidance.
All of the minor characters were quite good except the role played
by John Hurt (no relation to William) which seemed to be out of another
movie. My favorite minor character was Jane Horrocks's portrayal of
the social worker. She was the only funny character in the movie and
every one of her lines was a riot. I wish her part had been made
larger. Given that everyone loved her in LIFE IS SWEET whereas I hated
her in it, I was surprised myself at how enchanted I was with her
acting in SECOND BEST.
Just watching the movie may make you want to move to the serenity
of Wales - lovely cinematography (Ashley Rowe). On the other hand, it
may scare you away from ever adopting a troubled child. A lot of the
movie was either sad or disturbing because of the subject matter.
Copyright © 1994 Steve Rhodes