Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

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Reviews Counted: 20

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Average Rating: 3.8/5

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Movie Info

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence was the first English-language project of Japanese director Nagisa Oshima (Death by Hanging, In the Realm of the Senses). In tune with his previous filmic essays on racism and brutality, Merry Christmas concentrates on a war of wills between rebellious POW Major Jack Celliers (David Bowie) and camp commandant Captain Yonoi (Ryuichi Sakomoto). Assuming that his other prisoners' unwillingness to protest their cruel treatment is a sign of weakness, Yonoi is most impressed by Celliers' enigmatic defiance. While Celliers and Yonoi seem to be operating on a high spiritual and intellectual plane, bilingual prisoner Colonel John Lawrence (Tom Conti) (the "Mr. Lawrence" of the title) engages in a more standard adversarial relationship with sadistic Sergeant Gengo Hara (Takeshi Kitano).

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David Bowie
as Maj. Jack 'Strafer' Celliers
Tom Conti
as Col. John Lawrence
Ryuichi Sakamoto
as Capt. Yonoi
Takeshi Kitano
as Sgt. Gengo Hara
Jack Thompson
as Hicksley-Ellis
Johnny Okura
as Kanemoto
James Malcolm
as Celliers' brother
Christopher Broun
as Celliers (age 12)
Yuya Uchida
as Military Prison Commandant
Ryunosuke Kaneda
as President of the Court
Takashi Naitô
as Lt. Iwata
Taketoshi Naito
as Lt. lwata
Tamio Ishikura
as Prosecutor
Rokko Toura
as Interpreter
Kan Mikami
as Lt. Ito
Chris Broun
as Jack (boy)
Yuji Honma
as Pfc. Yajima
Christopher Brown
as Celliers at Age 12
Daisuke Iijima
as Cpl. Ueki
Hideo Murota
as New Camp Commandant
Barry Dorking
as Chief Doctor
Geoff Clendon
as Australian Doctor
Grant Bridger
as P.O.W. Officer
Marc Berg
as P.O.W.
Rob Jayne
as P.O.W.
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Critic Reviews for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (6)

The Merry Christmas catalogue of atrocities finally becomes numbing, even ludicrous.

Dec 10, 2008 | Full Review…

From Oshima's later career... most notable is this bilingual, end-of-WWII tearjerker about forgiveness and understanding between cultures, which could have been dubbed The Man Who Fell to Java.

Oct 2, 2008 | Full Review…

For all the praise heaped upon Oshima's admittedly ambitious film about East-West relations in the microcosm of a Japanese PoW camp during World War II, it's far less satisfactory than most of his earlier work.

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Here's a movie that is even stranger than it was intended to be.

Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Mr. Oshima has staged the film in a spacious tropical setting and filled it with a great number of extras. Even so, Mr. Bowie always stands out from the crowd.

Aug 30, 2004 | Rating: 3/5

The context and frequent incontinence of the execution bring the film uncomfortably close to the pseudophilosophical bondage fantasies of Yukio Mishima.

Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence


Oddly scripted but intriguing. It's difficult to deny the presence of homoerotic undertones here, making this a most unconventional war film.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


weird film. i think bowie may have been miscast, tho he does as well as could be expected. tom conti is kind of annoying with his perfect preachy character. the synthy soundtrack is good but kind of dated. +3 for beat takeshi in his first dramatic role

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

An interesting and very serious subject, but the characters spend most of their time sitting around talking, which gets really boring after a while. Plus, I'm not sure Bowie was the right person for the role, not that he can't act, I just think a more experienced dramatic actor would have been better. Overall, it's okay.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer


Not a great movie but one of the all time lump-in-the-throat endings (cue music and roll credits). Right up there with Frosty the Snowman and Camelot.

Bob Stinson
Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer

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