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A World Apart

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A World Apart, a moving drama film directed by Chris Menges in 1988, starring Barbara Hershey, David Suchet, and Jodhi May, is a poignant tale of resilience, revolution, and sacrifice set against the backdrop of the tumultuous era of apartheid in 1960s South Africa.

The narrative takes us on a journey through the lens of Molly Roth (Jodhi May), an adolescent girl trying to comprehend the intensity of restrictions and human rights abuses in her homeland. Molly's worldview is majorly refracted through the dilemmas and commitments of her parents, particularly her mother, who as ardent campaigners against apartheid, risk their own family's security for the greater cause.

Barbara Hershey portrays the role of Diana Roth, Molly's mother and an intense journalist passionately dedicated to the anti-apartheid struggle, her work often leading her on a collision course with the government. This dynamic character is inspired by Ruth First, a prominent anti-apartheid activist and journalist. Hershey's performance is layered and nuanced, offering viewers an intimate study of how one woman’s fight for justice can blur the line between one's private and public life.

David Suchet plays Diana's husband and Molly's father, Joe Slovo, another anti-apartheid activist and a member of the South African Communist Party. Despite his limited on-screen presence, Suchet's portrayal of a father trying to explain the roots of the family’s instability to their young daughters offer some of the film's most tender moments.

The narrative focuses not only on the parents’ political actions but also on the repercussions these actions have on the personal lives of their children, particularly Molly. As Diana immerses herself deeper into the struggle, the young Molly's life is drastically affected. Her struggle to understand her mother’s choices, to survive her mother's imprisonments punctuated by police authorities' brutalities, forms the crux of the narrative. Through Molly’s perspective, the movie touches upon a wider theme of familial relationships caught in the crossfire of political upheavals and the profound impact it has on an individual’s development. Jodhi May's performance as Molly is heartfelt and genuine, effectively portraying her character’s journey, from innocence and confusion to a painful understanding of the world around her.

A World Apart also showcases other side characters who are crucial in shaping Molly’s understanding of the world. Pauline, played by Linda Mvusi, becomes a surrogate mother to Molly when Diana is away, bringing Molly closer to understanding the lives of the oppressed black community in apartheid-ruled South Africa.

The movie is not just a personal story of a single family but a reflection of the era. Chris Menges painstakingly recreates the setting of South Africa in the 60s with a realistic portrayal of the unrest, brutality, and repression suffered by the South African populace under the apartheid regime. The film also encapsulates the pervasive fear that gripped the country, especially among those on the frontlines of this battle for equality, impressively done through the use of nuanced dialogues, evocative cinematography, and moving performances.

Despite its intense subject matter, the film is surprisingly gentle, often focusing on small details that remind the audience of the constant clash between hatred and love, despair and hope, oppression and freedom.

A World Apart is an unflinching and emotionally-charged narrative but it is filled with just as much heart and truth. Through these personal stories, it provides viewers with a deeper understanding of the struggles and dilemmas faced by those who fought against the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa. This movie is a must-watch for those interested in historical dramas that effectively blend personal stories with larger social and political climates. In the truest sense, it is a film about a time, a place, and a family etched in a world apart by the policies of apartheid, unafraid to explore the depths of sacrifice, resilience, and the human spirit.

A World Apart is a Drama movie released in 1988. It has a runtime of 113 minutes. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.1..

Chris Menges
Jodhi May, Barbara Hershey, Jeroen Krabbe, Tim Roth, David Suchet
Also directed by Chris Menges
A World Apart is available on .