Second Best (1994)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Actor William Hurt delivers one of his most acclaimed performances in this drama from Oscar-winning cinematographer-turned-director Chris Menges. Hurt stars as Graham Holt, a repressed Welsh postmaster who lives a reclusive bachelor's existence with his suicidal father (Alfred Lynch), who is in failing health and is still grieving from the recent death of Graham's mother. Knowing that he'll soon be alone, Graham applies to adopt a troubled ten-year-old boy, James (Chris Cleary Miles), whose own painful history mirrors Graham's. Throughout the long adoption process, supervised by wisecracking social worker Debbie (Jane Horrocks), Graham struggles to win James' affection and respect during weekend visits, while the boy dreams of reconciliation with his father, John (Keith Allen), who is currently serving prison time. Graham's father dies, drawing Graham and James closer, and Graham begins to feel like a real father to James. But when John is released, he appears in town with the shocking news that he is afflicted with AIDS -- and cannot care for his son. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi
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Warner Home Video

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William Hurt
as Graham
Keith Allen
as James
Jane Horrocks
as Debbie
Alan Cumming
as Bernard
John Hurt
as Uncle Turpin
Jodhi May
as Alice
Sophie Dix
as Mary
Nathan Yapp
as James (age 3)
Doris Irving
as Adoption Shop Volunteer
Alfred Lynch
as Edward
Gus Troakes
as Jeffo
James Warrior
as Senior Social Worker
Shaun Dingwall
as Graham (age 20)
Paul Wilson
as Colin (age 20)
Jake Owen
as Jimmy
Ross Edwards
as Pimple
Bryn Askham
as Chris
Doris Hare
as Mrs. Hawkins
Adam Wills
as Graham (age 12)
Nerys Hughes
as Maureen
Philip Swancote
as Policeman
Anne Morrish
as Lizzie
Esther Coles
as Staff Nurse
Tessa Gearing
as Mrs. Hilliard
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Critic Reviews for Second Best

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (1)

William Hurt portrays an unmarried Welsh postmaster who decides to adopt a child after his own parents pass away. Both he and the boy he is assigned have psychological scars, and the gradual revelation of these inner pains is what fuels the plot, but the

October 14, 2004

Zeroes in on the tense but potentially rewarding relationships between fathers and sons.

Full Review… | August 26, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

Quote not available.

September 21, 2005
Fantastica Daily

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July 23, 2005

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July 29, 2002
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Quote not available.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Second Best

Very strong performance from Hurt and one of the most poignant depictions of a father-child relationship.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Really good movie. I am actually surprised that it is from 1994, and I have never seen it before. Where have they been hiding this wonderful film? William Hurt did a great job, and that kid...well what can I say. He deserved an Oscar for this, as far as I am concerned. Very moving. Very touching.

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

Well made but I found it very hard to get involved with the characters, and there were a number of scenes that dragged on. The acting is excellent, wonderfully photographed. But it is just so bleak and just too boring overall. It seemed much longer than its actual length. Perhaps if the characters were more interesting, I might not have found it so slow.

James Higgins
James Higgins

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