Longford (2006)

“If you start off with that pious mumbo jumbo I’ll jump across this table and bite off your tongue.”

The Moors Murders committed in the 1960s by Ian Brady and his girlfriend Myra Hindley, are some of the most horrific child murders in the history of British crime. These notorious murderers lured, tortured and then killed their young victims, and even made tape recordings of a 10-year-old victim’s ordeal. The film Longford traces the relationship between the incarcerated Myra Hindley and Lord Longford, then a cabinet member in Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s government. Director Tom Hopper avoids the sensationalistic and more gruesome aspects of this notorious case and, instead, presents a fascinating psychological, character driven drama that explores the issues of rehabilitation and redemption.

The film begins in 1987 with Longford’s attendance at a call-in radio programme where he’s confronted by outraged callers who demand to know if he has any regrets about his relationship with Hindley. The film then flashes back to 1967 when Longford (Jim Broadbent), a well-known advocate of prisoners, and a firm believer in rehabilitation, is first approached by convicted murderer, Hindley (Samantha Morton) in her bid to secure parole.

Most of those who know Longford accept his position regarding prisoner rehabilitation, but as far as his family and the general public are concerned, he crosses the line in his relationship with Hindley. Longford, a fervent christian who has converted to catholicism, believes that everyone and every sin can be forgiven. So befriending Hindley represents a test of his religious commitment. Although initially daunted by the prospect of meeting this notorious killer face-to-face, Longford is pleasantly surprised by Hindley. He expected a monster, but instead discovers a demure, quiet young woman. He’s delighted, therefore, when over time Hindley expresses an interest in returning to the catholic church, and claims that it is due to Longford’s influence. Longford’s uncomfortable encounters with the demonic Ian Brady (Andy Serkis in a chilling performance), however, raise questions about Hindley’s sincerity.

The Moors Murderers were the first male/female serial sex killers in Britain, and while it was accepted that a man was capable of such acts, many people expressed incredulity that a woman was involved. One of the theories was that Brady forced or coerced Hindley in some way, and some evidence at the trial in conjunction with Hindley’s subdued, obedient behaviour certainly reinforces that argument, and she claims that she was led astray by Brady’s forceful personality. Various reformers see Hindley as a model prisoner while Brady is seen as a monster. Does Longford, who believes fervently in forgiveness and redemption, see only what he wants to see? Ian Brady delights in evil, and shows no remorse whatsoever, but is Myra a different case?

The film, which is excellently acted, makes a strong statement about the role of ego in the redemption of another, and Longford is portrayed as a naive man whose life of phenomenal privilege leaves him unprepared to deal with the dark side of human nature. The DVD includes a short feature with some details and archival footage concerning the murders. Directed by Tom Hopper

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Filed under British, British television

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