My daughter and I just got back from seeing Amazing Grace. It's hard to know where to start.
It seems difficult for period films to capture the times they're depicting--especially when it involves the stiff British upper class--while at the same time making the characters seem real to modern audiences. The previews for Marie Antionette looked too much like a bunch of modern kids dressing up in fancy outfits and pretending (badly) to be French aristocracy. Other movies try, like The Man in the Iron Mask, but some of the actors (Leonardo diCaprio) just aren't up to the task.
In Amazing Grace, Ioan Gruffudd, a Welsh man with an equally Welsh name that's impossible to pronounce by any normal English speaker (pronounced: Yo-an Griffith), was the heart and soul of the film. He was the living, breathing, passionate William Wilberforce. And each performance by the supporting players was up to the same excellent level.
There was life in these people, and most of it wasn't the fiery rhetoric of the House of Commons. A glance and a private smile between Wilberforce's brother (played by "Young Aubrey Montague" from Chariots of Fire) and the brother's wife. A snort after a shared joke over dinner. A comfortable conversation, on wet grass, between Wilberforce and Richard the Butler. Little moments that formed a foundation for the larger moments of the film.
What struck me most about William Wilberforce the man, was the way he saw and treated all people as fellow human beings. From the lowliest half a man, to his butler, to the slaves he knew were traded and sold, to him all of them were worthy of life and dignity. But it was his lot in life to fight for over two decades against men who cared only for their own pampered lives and for what use other people were to them.
Amazing Grace is beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, and superbly cast. I smiled, I laughed, I cried, and I applauded with the rest of the audience. I recommend you see it. I'll be seeing it again very soon.