Film review: Walesa: Man of Hope (12A)

Andrzej Wajda, 124mins. Starring: Robert Wieckiewicz, Agnieszka Grochowska

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The Independent Culture

The great Polish director Andrzej Wajda is now 87. His retirement was confidently predicted by many after his Second World War epic Katyn (2007), about the massacre of Polish officers by Soviet authorities in 1940.

However, he has kept on going, first with chamber piece Sweet Rush (2009) and now with this rousing and energetic biopic of Solidarity leader Lech Walesa. Unlike most directors making dramas about well-known political and historical figures, Wajda is older than his subject and knows at first-hand what went on in the Gdansk shipyard strikes and during martial law.

He is helped by a truly remarkable performance from Robert Wieckiewicz as the bluntly spoken shipyard electrician and family man turned political leader. The first half of the film, in which Walesa tells Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci about his exploits, is by far the strongest. The second half teeters on the verge of hagiography.