Mr. Jones (2019 film)

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Mr. Jones
theatrical release poster in UK
PolishObywatel Jones
LiterallyCitizen Jones
UkrainianЦіна правди
LiterallyThe Price of Truth
Directed byAgnieszka Holland
Written byAndrea Chalupa [uk]
Produced by
  • Andrea Chalupa
  • Stanislaw Dziedzic
  • Angus Lamont
  • Egor Olesov
  • Klaudia Smieja
  • Magdalena Zimecka
Starring
CinematographyTomasz Naumiuk [pl][1]
Edited byMichal Czarnecki [pl]
Music byAntoni Lazarkiewicz [pl]
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release dates
    • 25 October 2019 (2019-October-25) (Poland)
    • 28 November 2019 (2019-November-28) (Ukraine)
    • 7 February 2020 (2020-February-07) (United Kingdom)
Running time
1 hour 59 minutes (119 minutes)[2]
Countries
  • Poland
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
Languages
Box office$2.8million (World wide)[4]

Mr. Jones (Mr Jones in British release) (Polish: Obywatel Jones, lit.'Citizen Jones', Ukrainian: Ціна правди, lit.'The Price of Truth') is a 2019 Polish-Ukrainian-British thriller biographical film[5] written and co-produced by Andrea Chalupa [uk] and directed by Agnieszka Holland. It is based on the true story of the British journalist Gareth Jones, who uncovers the truth for the devastating famine 'Holodomor' in which millions died in Ukrainian Republic, Soviet Union.[6][7]

The film was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival.[8]

Plot[edit]

In 1933 Gareth Jones is an ambitious young journalist, who has gained some renown for his interview with Adolf Hitler. The son of an English teacher in the Welsh colony of Hughesovka in Soviet Ukraine, Jones is also fascinated by how Stalin's Soviet Union has gone from a backward peasant state to an industrial powerhouse that appears to be the only country unaffected by the Great Depression and believes that its success means that a British-Soviet alliance is the key to preventing the Nazi domination of Europe. To this end, Jones has taken up a job as a political advisor to David Lloyd George, the former British prime minister, but with funding limited owing to the economic difficulties, and after failing to make his case in a critical meeting, he is made redundant.

Trading on his connections in Britain and in Russia, Jones manages to obtain a Russian visa with the intention of setting up an interview with Stalin. Upon arrival he meets Eugene Lyons, a Russian-American journalist, who is with a party of British engineers from Metropolitan-Vickers; they take him to a party at the home of Walter Duranty and give him cryptic hints that the Soviets are not as enlightened as they make out, and that the Soviet economic miracle may not rest on the famed efficiency of the Ukrainian farms as they have claimed. He is also informed that journalists are forbidden to venture outside of Moscow. Through a chance meeting with fellow British journalist Ada Brooks—who is under close observation by the OGPU, the Soviet secret police—he learns that his contact in Moscow was murdered by the authorities while investigating the supposed Ukrainian agricultural revolution. Armed with this information, Jones alters his documents to make him appear to be still be employed by Lloyd George and obtains an invitation to Ukraine by the Soviet foreign minister Maxim Litvinov.

On the train journey south, Jones takes advantage of a brief stop to leave his train and sneak onto another train, which is taking starving peasant workers to Hughesovka—now renamed Stalino. At Stalino, he finds that all of the grain shipments are being immediately sent to Moscow, but he is labelled a foreign spy and forced to flee into the woods. After escaping he witnesses abandoned villages, with peasants dying in their own homes. After travelling for several days he eventually hears from the locals that the famine has been started deliberately by Moscow; he is ultimately caught by the OGPU.

Taken to a Soviet prison, Jones briefly encounters the engineers whom he met in Moscow, who have now also been accused of espionage. Under interrogation he is told that he will be sent back to London without charges, with an expectation that he will repeat to the press the story the Soviets wish to be heard—that Ukraine is the breadbasket of the USSR and any stories of a famine are rumours. Only if he does this will the Russians agree to release the engineers.

Back in London his publisher introduces him to George Orwell, who persuades Jones to tell the truth for the greater good. Hearing his claims about the actions of the Soviet government, Orwell responds by writing Animal Farm. In response to Jones's claims, Duranty—who through idealism and bribery is using his position to act as a propaganda mouthpiece for Stalin—mobilises his contacts to rebut any stories of famine in Ukraine. Litvinov similarly puts pressure on Lloyd George to force Jones to retract his claims. He refuses but becomes a pariah as the public turns on him. He returns to his father's home in Wales out of desperation but later hears that the American media mogul and Nazi sympathiser William Randolph Hearst is at a nearby stately home that he owns. Jones manages to reach him and persuades him to use his publications to revive the accusations of induced famine. The extra publicity revives public belief in the truth of the Holodomor.

The film ends by recording that Jones died two years later while reporting in Inner Mongolia. Travelling with a fellow journalist who was also a member of the Comintern, he was kidnapped by bandits and executed.

Cast[edit]

Release[edit]

Mr. Jones had its world premiere at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival on 10 February 2019.[7] Distribution rights for North America were acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films in August 2019.[9] The film was released in Poland on 25 October 2019 by Kino Świat,[10] in Ukraine on 28 November 2019 by MMD UA,[11] and in the United Kingdom on 7 February 2020 by Signature Entertainment.[12] Originally scheduled for a 3 April 2020 theatrical release in the United States,[13] the film was instead released in virtual cinemas on 22 May 2020, digitally on 19 June and on-demand on 3 July.[14][15]

Reception[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 86% based on 106 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Flawed yet fundamentally worthy, Mr. Jones peers into the past to tell a fact-based story that remains troublingly relevant today."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 68 out of 100 based on reviews from 19 critics.[17]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film four out of five, calling it "a bold and heartfelt movie with a real Lean-ian sweep".[18] Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph gave it three out of five, praising Sarsgaard for his performance and for raising the "sadly untapped" potential of the film. Robey criticised the script and concluded, "There's enough in Mr Jones to make you want a good deal more".[19] Kyle Smith of National Review gave the film a favourable review, noting, "To this day, Mr. Jones is all but unknown and his courage is unsung by his inky heirs, whereas Duranty's Pulitzer Prize remains on the books even after a thousand other things have been canceled. Meanwhile, Mr. Jones joins the unconscionably brief list of brutally honest films about Communism."[20]

Jones's great-nephew and current literary executor Philip Colley expressed disappointment with inaccuracies in the film, stating that Jones "didn't witness any dead bodies or any cannibalism, let alone take part in any",[21] and criticising fictional depictions of "Jones meeting George Orwell and seeking an interview with Joseph Stalin as well as the obligatory love interest, even though he had none".[21] Colley also criticised the film for omitting that Jones travelled to Ukraine at the invitation of the German Vice Consul in Kharkiv, and for depicting Jones as "languishing in a Soviet jail, having been arrested by Stalin’s infamous NKVD".[22] Colley's brother Nigel had been heavily involved in discussing ideas for the film with screenwriter Andrea Chalupa, but had died in 2018.[21] A spokesperson for the film responded to Philip Colley's criticisms by saying "This project is inspired by true events, and like all narrative films, it adds fictional elements to underscore themes and create a cohesive feature", adding that before Nigel's death there had been plans to make him a historical consultant and allow him to review the script.[21]

Awards[edit]

The film won the Grand Prix Golden Lions award at the 44th Gdynia Film Festival in 2019.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Mr. Jones (2019)". Film.UA. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Mr. Jones (Competition section)". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d "Mr. Jones (2019)". WestEnd Films. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Mr. Jones (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  5. ^ Ide, Wendy (9 February 2020). "Mr Jones review – gripping Stalin-era thriller with James Norton". The Observer. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Gareth Jones: The Welsh Investigative Journalist". GarethJones.org.
  7. ^ a b Barraclough, Leo (28 January 2019). "First Footage From Berlin Competition Film Mr. Jones (exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Selection for Competition and Berlinale Special Completed" (Press release). Berlin International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  9. ^ Mitchell, Robert (22 August 2019). "Samuel Goldwyn Films Takes U.S. Rights to Berlin Competition Title 'Mr Jones'". Variety. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  10. ^ "Obywatel Jones" (in Polish). Kino Świat. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  11. ^ "Official Ukrainian poster for Mr. Jones Movie release". Film.UA. 3 September 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  12. ^ "Mr Jones". Signature Entertainment. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Mr. Jones". Samuel Goldwyn Films. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 1 August 2023.
  14. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael; Hornaday, Ann (21 May 2020). "New movies to stream this week: 'The Painter and the Thief,' 'The Lovebirds' and more". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 August 2023.
  15. ^ Radish, Christina (22 June 2020). "James Norton on the Timeliness of 'Mr. Jones' and Working with Joss Whedon on HBO's 'The Nevers'". Collider. Retrieved 1 August 2023.
  16. ^ "Mr. Jones (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  17. ^ "Mr. Jones". Metacritic. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  18. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (11 February 2019). "Mr Jones review – newsman's heroic journey into a Soviet nightmare". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  19. ^ Robey, Tim (15 February 2019). "Mr Jones. Berlin Film Festival review: James Norton makes history as the original fake news crusader". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 May 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  20. ^ Smith, Kyle (2 July 2020). "Stalin, Famine, and the New York Times". National Review. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  21. ^ a b c d Tucker, Grant (26 January 2020). "Family fury as film turns daring reporter Gareth Jones into accidental cannibal". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  22. ^ Colley, Philip. "My great-uncle's legacy must be preserved, but not at the expense of the truth" (PDF). GarethJonesSociety.org. Le Monde. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  23. ^ Salwa, Ola (23 September 2019). "Mr. Jones tames the Golden Lions at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia". Cineuropa. Retrieved 27 October 2019.

External links[edit]