Let Him Have It (1991 D: Peter Medak, W: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade)
There are plenty of sad films out there. Just hurt a dog in a movie and I’m ready to stick my head under a car tire. (I’ve contended for years that Where The Red Fern Grows and Ol’ Yeller are the child’s equivalent of torture porn.) But for a truly transcendent kind of sadness, watch Let Him Have It. Christopher Eccleston plays Derek Bentley, the illiterate who falls into bad company with Chris Craig (played by Paul Reynolds). In the famous case, referenced in Elvis Costello’s song “Let Him Dangle” on the Spike LP, Bentley is sentenced to be hanged for the murder of a police officer, even though he didn’t pull the trigger. The double meaning of the phrase “let him have it” forms the crux of the legal debate. The film is solid, the script airtight. Bentley’s last moments with his mother are impossibly sad, as is the underlying story itself. Medak’s direction is as restrained as the acting – he was on quite a roll with The Krays, this film, and the nutso Romeo Is Bleeding. I love this film.