In June 1953, Winston Churchill was 78 years old and still one of the most powerful heads of state in the world. After having a severe stroke, he was whisked away to recuperate at his country estate while the gravity of his condition was kept from the world.
Churchill’s Secret is a movie about this event based on a novel written by Jonathan Smith. It is a fictionalized account with a fictional centerpiece—Churchill’s young nurse, Minnie, with whom he forms a friendship as he recovers. Minnie is, like the viewer, an outsider in the family and new to all of the relationship dynamics. The film is more family drama than historical epic, as it focuses on how Churchill’s career has affected his relationships with his wife and his children.
Michael Gambon is compelling as a Churchill, a powerful man who is frustrated and determined to overcome this new obstacle. Romola Garai, who plays Minnie, brings a winning warmth to the story, and Lindsay Duncan plays Churchill’s concerned wife, Clementine, with compassion.
The biggest star of the show, however, may be Chartwell, Churchill’s country home. The movie was shot on site at the National Trust property, giving viewers a virtual tour of the home and grounds.
The acting and the setting elevate the show from your average made-for-TV movie. It offers an interesting window into a piece of history that viewers might know little about, as well as a rumination on the personal cost of public service. Available for free viewing on the PBS website through September 25. (ITV)