13 October 2009

The English Surgeon

Any one can tell you it's much harder to show goodness than evil. We love and remember villains; good characters doing their duty? We pay them lip service, but look at how few truly memorable good characters there are in films or books. Genuinely good people are difficult to portray without descending into mawkishness, sentimentality, or worst of all, self-consciousness.
The English Surgeon avoids all these traps and  brilliantly transcends the bald summary of its story: an English neurosurgeon helps Ukranians.
Using all the elements of fiction cinema -- sophisticated composition, concrete metaphors, the impact of sound -- the documentary creates a portrait of a morally serious man in a hellish place who's committed to helping patients trapped by their own biology and geography. We meet him in Britian, in his woodshed, using a drill to put together a packing case -- a drill nearly identical to the one we'll see him use to operate with later.
It even manages to be funny, here and there. What it never is, is trivial, bathetic or self-conscious.
You need to see it.

The official web site is here.


  1. Tim, this is Geoffrey Smith, director of The English Surgeon. Your review is one of the best I have ever read, and there have been hundreds...
    Keep up the good work,



  2. Thank you for your kind comments. I'm stunned you found the post and took the time to read it. It's easy to forget how intimate a place the Internet can be.
    (And if I'd ever thought you'd find your way here, I might even have included your name in the review).
    Most importantly, thank you for your film.