Cry, the Beloved Country - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Cry, the Beloved Country Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ March 21, 2013
Decent movie. A little slow....
Super Reviewer
September 14, 2010
We had to watch this movie in one of my classes, it's another story about apartheid. So, if you're interested in the subject, it's not that bad. If you're just looking for a drama or an enjoyable film, you may be disappointed. Overall, this movie is just okay.
½ July 28, 2012
Not a bad drama. James Earl Jones and Richard Harris, as expected, are great. John Barry delivers yet another beautiful score, reminiscent of "Out of Africa"; a remake of a 1951 film.
½ January 1, 2012
"I have this great fear in my heart that, one day, when the white man turns to loving he will find that we are turned to hating."-Father Theophilus Msimangu (Vusi Kunene)
½ July 8, 2008
Maybe I'm just insensitive, but I didn't find this nearly as powerful as everybody said.

For one thing, I thought that the writing was way too stylized. I like "written" dialogue more than realistic speech (why should movies be limited to recreating the real world?), but this movie just felt pretentious. Everybody seems to know that they're in An Important Movie About A Serious Topic (in this case, racism in South Africa) and talk with so much pretension that 18th century English lords would complain. Hell, they even use the third person when talking to each other! How much more pretentious does it get?

I'm torn about the tone: On the one hand, I liked how the movie avoided overplaying the negative; most movies about racism emphasize how racism tore blacks and whites apart, but the black father and white father in this movie find unity in the tragedy, not separation. But as much as I liked the optimism, I couldn't help wondering about the accuracy concerning the lack of racial tension. According to this movie, blacks and whites got along fairly well. They didn't outright love each other (yet), but you won't find any "Mississippi Burning"-style sheriffs here.

"Cry, the Beloved Country" should have been great. The acting by James Earl Jones and Richard Harris rocked (despite the annoying writing), I liked the authentic atmosphere; you can tell that the movie was filmed in South Africa and some scenes-- like Jones and Harris' first meeting -- could have been really, really powerful. If only the movie had a better script.
January 29, 2008
Actually, the reason I'd planned to do a double review here was that they both started with the word "cry." If the library had had [i]Cry-Baby[/i], I would've been all over it. I thought, briefly, about throwing in [i]The Crying Game[/i]--which I own! But then, I actually looked at the [i]plots[/i] of both these movies. I'd put them on my hold list without having bothered to look at the plots, you see, because they were both movies that sounded vaguely familiar. That's been the case with a lot of the films we've gone through, actually. If I've heard of it from somewhere, it generally goes on the list, unless what I'd heard of it was, "My, that's a bad movie." And sometimes even then, hence Creature-o-rama.

But [i]Cry Freedom[/i] is about . . . well, realistically, it's about Donald Woods, a white liberal newspaper editor who ended up fleeing South Africa with his family. However, the thing that shaped his life to the point where he had to flee was his friendship with black activist Steven Biko. More on this anon. Likewise, [i]Cry, the Beloved Country[/i] is about two families, one white and one black, and how they interact in 1946 South Africa. It is very, very difficult for those of us who remember Apartheid to envision a story set in South Africa that [i]wasn't[/i] about the interactions between black and white people; I suppose you could make a movie about paleontologists or something, but I'm not sure it would work even then.

The problem a lot of people have with [i]Cry Freedom[/i], as I alluded to, is that it's not really the story of Steven Biko (Denzel Washington), who is arguably a more significant influence on the blacks of South Africa, and therefore--since the blacks are a majority--the country as a whole. Certainly it's true that it is the story of Donald Woods (Kevin Kline), and Steven Biko is not so much the star as the supporting role. However, I think that it is an equally important story to see the journey one man makes from going along with the status quo to risking his life--after a friend of his was beaten to death in prison, mind--in order to continue his fight against an oppressive regime. Let's face it, Steven Biko's death wouldn't've helped galvanize opposition to Apartheid if no one outside the country knew about it. Part of what ended Apartheid was pressure from other nations, and Donald Woods helped build that pressure. In the name, naturally, of his good friend, Steven Biko. Who is the [i]protagonist[/i] in the sense that the story would not move forward without him.

[i]Cry, the Beloved Country[/i] gives us a stronger focus on the black man, here James Earl Jones. However, in this case, I think a large part of the story [i]should[/i] focus instead on Richard Harris's James Jarvis, as it is his son that has been killed. However, we focus on Rev. Stephen Kumalo, the father of the killer, instead. Now, it is true that the point of the story is that Absolom Kumalo (Eric Miyeni) is guilty of perhaps manslaughter, and he should not have been executed for the crime, and that the reason he was has to do with the unjust system. That, it is true, is an awfully important story. However, James Jarvis has lost a son, and it changes him completely. I guess either story could go either way, really.

Now, I wouldn't be me if I didn't point out that Absolom is a clear Biblical reference, though probably--all things considered--not a Faulkner one. (And thank Gods, because I hated that book.) Abs[i]a[/i]lom was a son of King David, most famous for having been killed, and for the mourning of his father. Both fathers here have lost sons; both fathers here mourn. Both fathers are angry, as King David was angry, about what brought them all to this pass. It is this anger and this grief that allows the fathers to overcome what has separated them, even though one father might well be even angrier at the other.

Actually, Steven Biko and Donald Woods came together because Woods called Biko a racist in one of his columns. (Yes, boys and girls, it [i]is[/i] possible for a black person to be racist. Anyone who dislikes anyone else for the colour of their skin is a racist, no matter what colour whose skin is.) Biko denied the claim, I think rightly, and offered to show Woods the South Africa he did not know. So I guess the moral of today's stories is that friendship can come from unusual places, and what's important is to do good with it. Or something.

Weighty stuff, I know. And I'm sure we'll get into lighter, happier stuff soon; I've got some Al Franken in at the library, for example. And we've got the Cocteau [i]Beauty and the Beast[/i], and so forth. But in the library's catalog, as in life, we must take the serious with the joyful.
½ November 28, 2007
Fortunately, in image and structure Roodt and Harwood go for a steadfast simplicity that builds to a beautiful moment of rekindled faith for the grieving Rev. Kumalo that lifts Cry, the Beloved Country to a climactic moment of redemption.
½ October 8, 2007
All right. As any boy who grew up in the eighties, I have a special place in my heart for James Earl Jones. The voice of Darth Vader and the blind guy in "The Sandlot"? I love him. I just do. But here's the thing: When he gets into serious mode, he just sounds like Vader. Which is unsettling when he's playing a benevolent African priest.

Still, this is a touching and powerful film. Richard Harris acts the hell out of this role. His two scenes with James Earl, where so much is left unsaid, are like little minimalist miracles. Seriously.
August 2, 2007
Moves at a somewhat slow pace, so it's not my cup o' tea...but it had some excellent lines and a dark take on life that got me thinking. The cinematography was done well, and the acting was superb on James Earl's part.
½ April 29, 2007
This beautiful film takes place in Africa during the Apartheid when the lines of separation were so clearly drawn between black and white. The main characters are a black priest and a white upperclass gentleman who's son is accidentally killed by the former's son in Johannesburg. The priest's faith is deeply explored and challenged as he travels through this, his most difficult journey of all. This is a film that should be seen by all.
April 19, 2007
Poorly done, but thats 2 b xspected. Its nice 2 c James Earl Jones in an actual acting role rather than a voice role.
½ June 17, 2006
The book is wonderful, and the movie is also quite good. James Earl Jones doesn't look like how I pictured his character in the book, but does a great job.
September 10, 2015
Outstanding! So much more engaging than the book. A wonderful job!
April 23, 2015
Somewhat shallow and sentimental. But I managed to kill one hour and 51 minutes. South Africa is indeed a beautiful country, but I wasn't crying.
½ March 25, 2014
good remake but i prefer the 1951 version of this tale best.
½ February 23, 2014
fine movie, but, as the old adage says, the book was better.
Super Reviewer
½ March 21, 2013
Decent movie. A little slow....
December 26, 2012
The book is a wonderful synopsis of what South Africa was like at the time and is still now.
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