Regeneration Review

Based on Pat Barker's novel of the same name, 'Regeneration' tells the story of soldiers of World War One sent to an asylum for emotional troubles.

by Bob McCabe |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1997

Running Time:

113 minutes



Original Title:


Adapted from the first part of Pat Barker's World War I trilogy, Gillies Mackinnon's Regeneration focuses on the work of psychiatric pioneer Dr. William Rivers (Pryce) and his attempts to heal the lives of a group of men, all of whom have been left emotionally devastated by the effects of the 1914-18 conflict.

Most notable among these is the poet Siegfried Sassoon (Wilby), formerly a heroic soldier who is sent to Rivers' asylum after he reveals his plans to make a public protest against the war. As Rivers tries to convince him to change his plans, Sassoon starts to bring to the surface the doctor's own wounds and it becomes clear that the patients and the carers are all fighting the same war, all equally scarred by it.

Mackinnon's film is a worthy, often engrossing tale, delicately acted and beautifully shot. The sheer horror of trench warfare haven't been captured this vividly and emotionally since Kubrick's Paths Of Glory. The opening scene; an aerial view of a mud-filled battle-field covered with corpses, immediately sets the tone of the piece, while Michael Danna's score is mournfully moving. Sassoon is the kind of role Wilby can deliver in his sleep and here he's very good, bristling with upper class righteous indignation.

Pryce, too, is on top form, with a well-judged portrayal ' of a man becoming unravelled by virtue of his trying to help others put their lives back together. Just as impressive is Miller's initially mute enlisted man, Private Billy Prior, struggling to prove his manhood, haunted by fear of his own cowardice.

The film works less well, however, in terms of focus. Miller's soldier's story is of equal import to that of the doctor and Sassoon, while the latter's formative relationship with fellow war poet and inmate Wilfred Owen (Bunce) is in there, too, struggling for screen time.

In short, Mackinnon has bitten off a touch more than he can chew at times, but what is here is still pretty tasty.
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