The influence for one of the most controversial books of our time is revealed in this riveting and at times shocking story from Academy Award-nominated director Agnieszka Holland.
In 1933, a Welsh journalist named Gareth Jones is in the Soviet Union as he plans to interview Josef Stalin about the apparent growth of the economy in the country. Despite efforts from both Duranty and Soviet commissar of foreign affairs Maxim Litvinov, Jones is determined to learn the truth as he feels something isn’t right. When he learns a fellow journalist has died as a result of putting his nose where it doesn’t belong, it makes Jones even more determined to finish the job and get the truth. While he is only supposed to go to Moscow, he decides to go to the Ukraine.
Upon his arrival to the countryside, he finds many shocking things that has transpired. To the Western World, the Soviets are living in peace and are attempting to advance in many ways. However, Jones learns that the countryside and farmers have been plagued with famine. Kids have resorted to theft and farmers have resorts to unimaginable things just because they are hungry. As Jones gets closer to the truth, a devastating event occurs that will forever change the course of things for not only the journalist, but the entire world as well. The story would become the influence for George Orwell’s seminal book Animal Farm
This film is a riveting true story of a journalist who went against all odds to prove that the grass isn’t always greener. Agnieszka Holland is a legend when it comes to cinema and here, she delves into the story of Gareth Jones (1905-1935), a Welsh journalist who snuck to the Ukraine and documented the horrors of famine within the countryside. When it comes to making certain biopics revolving around certain topics, there are times when filmmakers tend to sugarcoat some aspects now and then, thus not giving it a chance to depict what really happened perhaps as a sign of respect to those involved.
However, director Holland likes to bring the harsh realities of her subjects and while some certain aspects can be seen as disturbing, it helps ramps up the fact that this is a very important film to look at when it comes to biopics. As we see our titular character overcome the odds and defy authorities in order to document the effects of the famine, we find children resorting to robbing him, babies practically kidnapped, and in one of the most shocking of scenes, gives us a very disturbing sense of what happened when two kids inform Mr. Jones of their little sibling no longer around and well, it brings of a vibe that is reminiscent of a horror film.
James Norton is excellent in the titular role of Gareth Jones. He brings this emotional depth to the role in which we see him seeing firsthand and at times, sympathizing with the farmers who are suffering due to the famine. He clearly is a determined man who will prove that not all as it seems and will do what it takes to get the truth out. Vanessa Kirby gives great support as Ada, the young woman who finds herself conflicted between the truth and what’s expected of her. It seems like Peter Sarsgaard is meant to play roles where he has to be somewhat slimy. As Walter Duranty, he may seem like a man who supports Jones, until we a scene that would be reminiscent of perhaps Eyes Wide Shut if it was set in the 1930s. Then, we see Duranty pretty much not only make Jones look like a fool, but it seems he gets the credit for pretty much being Stalin’s lackey.
Mr. Jones is a realistic look at a man’s journey to prove the world wrong and despite his great efforts, finds himself more involved with dire consequences rather than positives. However, James Norton’s performance is the reason to see this film along with Agnieszka Holland’s stylistic approach to bring that realism to life, without holding back.
WFG RATING: A
Samuel Goldwyn Films presents a Boy Jones Films production in association with Film Produkcja Kinorob. Director: Agnieszka Holland. Producers: Stanisław Dziedzic, Andrea Chalupa, and Klaudia Śmieja-Rostworowska. Writer: Andrea Chalupa. Cinematography: Tomasz Naumiak. Editing: Michal Czarnecki.
Cast: James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard, Kenneth Cranham, Joseph Mawle, Krzysztof Pieczynski, Beata Pozniak, Julian Lewis Jones.
The film will come to Digital on June 19.