Albert Finney is Winston Churchill in the well-made HBO biopic The Gathering Storm — not the Churchill best known to popular imagination, the unshakeable wartime prime minister of the first half of the 1940s, but a lesser-known figure, the Churchill of the late 1930s: a washed-up, unpopular MP nattering on in the House of Commons about views on India and Germany shared at the time by few in his party or outside it. A diehard imperialist, he was behind the curve on India ("I am trying to save India from Mr. Gandhi," he comments irritably), but ahead of it on Germany; unwilling to acknowledge what nearly everyone else recognized as the inevitable crumbling of British imperial power, he foresaw with cold clarity the up-and-coming imperialist threat in Europe that so many others didn’t wish to acknowledge.
Although the title is taken from the first volume of Churchill’s history of the war, The Gathering Storm is as much about Churchill’s personal life as his political trajectory — sometimes to excess, since the political side is usually more interesting. The warts-and-all portrait includes his loving but sometimes strained marriage to Clementina (Vanessa Redgrave), his financial troubles and hard drinking habits, his melancholia or "black dog," his amateur painting and bricklaying, and his habit of absent-mindedly losing himself in rehearsing or dictating speeches while in the bathtub or dressing and undressing.
Despite ending eight months prior to the natural climax of the prime ministership, The Gathering Storm is an interesting and informative look at the years leading up to Churchill’s key role in WWII.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.