Goodnight Mister Tom | Sunday Observer

Goodnight Mister Tom

The film Goodnight Mister Tom is directed by Jack Gold and the screenplay is by Brian Finch. It stars John Thaw as Tom Oakley, Nick Robinson as William Beech, Avril Elgar as Mrs. Ford, Mossie Smith as Alice Fletcher, Geoffrey Beevers as Vicar, Pauline Turner as Annie Hartridge and Thomas Orange as Zacharias (Zach) Wrench.

The film is set in England during the Second World War and it begins with a depiction of peaceful village life in an idyllic setting in the beautiful English countryside which is disrupted by a radio broadcast at the local church on Britain’s impending war with Germany in 1939. As a result of the war and the bombings, children are evacuated from London and billeted to families in the countryside.

Tom Oakley, a bitter old man who lost his wife and young son to scarlet fever many years ago and who lives alone in a small cottage in the village of Weirwold is told by Mrs. Ford who is the billeting officer for the area that he has to provide accommodation for a little boy named William Beech. William is a very sweet natured and introverted boy who comes from an abusive home where his mother Mrs. Beech abuses him.

William settles in with Mr. Oakley whom he refers to as Mister Tom, and he makes friends with another boy from London named Zach who is billeted at the doctor’s home and he begins to enjoy life in the village.

But just after William’s tenth birthday he receives a letter from his abusive mother saying that she is ill and that she wants him back. William is sent back to his abusive mother who beats him and then locks him up in a small cupboard under the staircase in her basement flat along with his baby half sister who eventually dies. Fortunately for William, Mr. Oakley instinctively feels that William is in trouble and goes in search for him to London and manages to find William and rescues him with the assistance of an Air Raid Warden.

William is taken to hospital in an ambulance where he is diagnosed with Tetanus which would have proved to be fatal had Mr. Oakley not found and rescued him in time. While in hospital, William who has been severely traumatised by his abusive mother has nightmares and wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. An overbearing psychiatrist named Dr. Stelton at the hospital suggests to Mr. Oakley that the orphaned William is put into a children’s home of which he is in charge.

Mr. Oakley knows better than the pompous psychiatrist and takes William back to the village where the love he receives from Mr. Oakley and his friends and the peaceful, beautiful surroundings of the village provides him with the therapy he needs to recover from the psychological trauma caused by years of emotional and physical abuse inflicted on him by his cruel mother. When William is found missing at the hospital, the officials come to the village in search of him and accuse Mr. Oakley of kidnapping William.

William informs the officials that he was not kidnapped but rescued and the official from the Home Office who is initially sceptical about Mr. Oakley’s motivations is convinced by Mr. Oakley’s genuine love for William and allows him to legally adopt the boy.

The film explores the horrors of war and the personal trauma of an abused and orphaned little boy who is fortunately spared from becoming in Mr. Oakley’s words “a human guinea pig” due to unnecessary and unethical psychiatric experiments, and finds a happy home in the village with his adopted father, Mr. Oakley. 

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