The Railway Man: The Memoir VS. The Movie

by missizziemcguinness


The Railway Man is a memoir by ex prisoner of war survivor Eric Lomax about his traumatic days working on the infamous ‘Railway of Death’, and how it took over 50 years for him to forgive his torturers. Being bored of the normal stuff that I read, I read this as my sister loves it. I have probably said this to every novel that I have read, but this book has opened my eyes to the realism of war, written first hand from an actual tortured soul who was brave enough to write about it.

I did not realize how horrific he described it, until I turned every page. It is hard for as a modern reader, and mostly born well after this time, to imagine that a man like that suffered so much for so long, and actually only died shortly before the film went into post production. We have rights now, that is the problem, the only person affected by it fully is his wife and his live near relations, but it doesn’t mean that the hating has to carry on. We can only read it and not realistically think of the pain that Lomax went through, surviving in near starvation, dehydration and horrible conditions that were actually sad to read while we are all concerned about our first world problems. He was only a guy obsessed with trains, and we could just feel his innocence lost as he begins to just about survive horrific events- even if it meant that he seemed distant.

The memoir has since been made into a movie starring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Jeremy Irvine.




‘I like trains. I really like trains’

Most movies based on memoirs and true stories are often better depending on the accuracy and the right actors. You know that mostly all of it occurred at some point. Anyway, Jonathan Teplizlay directs this movie, based on the memoir of the same name by Eric Lomax (played by Colin Firth in the movie), an ex prisoner of war, who, for years was mentally and physically scarred by the torture that was inflicted on him and encountered when he was kept prisoner by the Japanese on the Burma Railway in World War II, and years later could finally confront his torturer, Nagase, who happened to be still alive.

The cast for a difficult to depict memoir was very well casted. Colin Firth was being brilliant as usual and showed the life long mental illness through his face and actions, such as the screaming and violent shell shocked outbursts with himself and his wife Patti (played by Nicole Kidman) to the point when he is punishing her and how Firth does not play the same charecter in all his movies.

Nicole Kidman, was fairly good as Patti, although she relied mostly on her ‘eye acting’ to show any form of a charecter. Jeremy Irvine was incredibly exceptional as the younger Eric, but less so he apparently starved himself for the role. The torture scenes between Irvine and the Japanease torturers were incredibly difficult to watch, and any of the other torture scenes but were very cleverly done. What makes it worse is that it is a true story.

The Railway Man was a bit of a depressing movie, but would you much rather have a film where they show you the harsh truth or sugar coat it with distractions? Is it because we have all lived in a time where all this is distant but still often remembered? Lomax also lived for a very long time right into his nineties and he died in 2012. The movie also teaches us, in a non preachy way, to find a way to forgive.

A great movie for those who love history,are train enthusiasts and many others. The memoir and the movie are both as good as each other, but I would suggest reading the memoir first for a bit of back story which they cannot put into the film due to its irrelevance to the pace and time of the movie.