Holodomor is not a character from either Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings.
Instead, it translates from the Ukranian words holod “hunger” and mor “plague”. As such, it was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed millions. Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by Ukraine and 15 other countries (sadly not including the United Kingdom)as a genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out by the Soviet government.
Mr. Jones is based on the true story of a Welsh journalist who first publicized in the Western world, without equivocation and under his own name, the existence of the Holodomor. A decision which might well have cost him his a life a few years later.
But back to Mr. Jones and at times it feels more like a biography of it’s central character than the story he exposed and whilst I don’d mind that on one level, on another, Gareth Jones is a very bland person about whom we learn next to nothing. He doesn’t drink, smoke or seemingly have any interest in men or women let alone a sense of humor. Which… given that he is a real person is probably what he was like but it does make it harder to empathize with him as much as I should when he slips his Soviet handler and goes exploring in Ukraine where he sees and experiences the horrors that man is truly capable of when pushed past the point of no return.
At that point, when Jones leaves Moscow and enters the bleakly shot frozen Ukraine, I felt this film showing me that whilst journalists were partying and drinking in Moscow whilst parroting Stalins lies there were so many stores worth telling out there and it shows how, even back then, manufactured or ‘fake news’ almost drowned out the truth.
Sadly though, this is not a perfect film, leaving aside the fact that seemingly the only advertising this film received in the UK was a slot on the Andrew Marrr show meaning that I nearly missed it, this film spends too much time setting the scene, Jones maneuvers in Moscow to get into Ukraine and not enough on what happens whilst there and when he tries to get the truth out upon his return to London.
Not that I wanted to spend any more time in the Ukraine but this loops back to what I was saying, had I gotten a handle on Mr. Jones as a feeling, thinking human being than almost an invented POV character to show the audience what happened, and no words of mine can ever adequately describe what this film gets across with a few cold children singing nor, more to the point do I wish to even try.
Mr. Jones is a film about an important story in almost any hour. A horror that almost sleeps to be slipping out of the public mind with barely a whisper (I never heard about this at any point of my own schooling.)
The film is impeccably well acted, cast and shot. The director Agnieszka Holland deserves to be praised to the heavens instead of condemned to have made an important film that almost no-one will ever see.
But people should see this film.
People need to see this film.
Even if it needed a shorter first act to allow for a longer second and third.
Even if it needed to develop it’s lead more.
People need to remember.
Both the name Gareth Jones and the Holodomor.
My Score- See It