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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

A Man For All Seasons (1966)



Reviews and Comments

A Man For All Seasons is a wonderfully well-written story. Ostensibly it is about the reformation of the church in England during the time of King Henry VIII. Really, it's about the struggle of a man to hold by his principles in increasingly adverse times. Henry VIII wants a divorce, but the church won't permit it. As he applies pressure and officials within the church gradually cave in, Sir Thomas More finds himself increasingly alone in his unwillingness to sacrifice his principles to keep from sacrificing everything else.

What's most compelling to me about the central character is that he's not an activist or a rebel. He's not fighting for change; he's not a preacher or an evangelizer. He's loyal to his king. He simply won't be made to betray his own beliefs, and this is his only priority above seeing to the safety and well-being of himself and his family.

More's views and those of the other characters in the film are quite different from my own. (I'm a born again Christian but neither a Catholic nor an Anglican.) It hardly matters: this same story occurs time and again throughout history, throughout the world. The faces, the societies, and the principles under contention all change, but even the least principled of us all comes upon moments when we are faced with the decision to stand by unpopular beliefs or succumb to the threat of adversity. A Man For All Seasons tells this story -- hopefully a more extreme version of it than most of us will ever have to face -- with remarkable eloquence, insight, and stellar performances.

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