One Life ★★★★ — Jewish Renaissance

The film, directed by James Hawes, shifts between two separate time frames: one set in 1939 and the other in the 1980s. It opens with the older Winton counting coins from charity tins. He pockets a button dropped into the collection, telling his wife it might come in useful. Sometime later, the button does the job when an additional coin is needed for a parking meter. This shows us, not just that Winton was involved in grassroots charity work, but also that the ordinary can achieve unexpected results.

Anthony Hopkins captures Winton’s understated manner, the slight bemusement of a decent man caught in the act of a magnificent gesture that had previously struck him as perfectly normal. Prior to media attention, Winton had been living a quiet life in Maidenhead. He had never expected thanks for what he did, let alone public recognition. I remember him in London, sitting in front of an audience that sang his praises while he absentmindedly chewed a peanut. That was how he handled the greatness that had been thrust upon him.

In 1988, Winton was invited to the BBC to meet Esther Rantzen. He had no idea that he would join the That’s Life! audience and be seated next to Vera Gissing, one of the children he had saved. The following week, the studio was packed with other rescued kinder and their descendants. Standing to reveal themselves to Winton was reality TV’s finest moment: a reminder that while populist programmes could be daft and trivial, they could also be humane, bringing people together, instead of dividing them.

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