By Will Barber Taylor
The Golden Globe and BAFTA-winning biopic of Lord Longford and his relationship with Moors Murderer Myra Hindley. First broadcast on Channel Four in 2006.
Written by Peter Morgan (The Crown) and directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), this award-winning drama tells the story of Lord Longford s conscientious campaign for the rights’ of prisoners including those of Britain’s most notorious killer.
When Longford (Jim Broadbent) receives a letter from convicted child murderer, Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton) requesting a prison visit, he accepts the invitation despite protests from his wife Margaret (Lindsay Duncan). He forms an unexpected bond with Hindley based on their mutual Catholic upbringing and begins a decades-long fight to secure her parole.
What Longford thinks he knows about Hindley is challenged during a visit to her partner-in-crime Ian Brady (Andy Serkis). His faith is further put to the test as popular outcry mounts against him for his involvement with the despised couple.
Longford’s controversial beliefs spark furious public debate and deep personal conflict as he presses on with his campaign to support Hindley’s release; a campaign that threatens to leave his reputation in tatters.
Peter Morgan is perhaps one of the most skilled television writers that is working today. From The Crown to The Deal and The Queen to The Special Relationship, his skill at political writing with a strong emotional core is unparalleled in the industry. No more can this be clearly experienced than in his 2006 masterpiece Longford, starring Jim Broadbent as the Labour Peer desperate to see the best in everyone, no matter what their crime is. Longford’s belief in justice, however, directs him on a dark path – to believing and extolling the virtues of one of Britain’s most vicious murderers. Longford’s zealous and unrelenting campaign leads him to be dubbed Lord Wrongford and this was the case when Hindley, in the 1980s, admitted to two further murders that she had committed with Brady which Longford had no idea about. Longford is the story of a naive man whose zeal for justice results in him supporting what could have been one of the greatest injustices of the 20th century – the release of Myra Hindley.
The acting is superb, and it is entirely right that Jim Broadbent won a BAFTA for his portrayal of Longford. Broadbent brings a subtle amount of pure bewilderedness to his part; Longford seems like a man with good intentions but an inability to judge when he is acting irrationally and this stubbornly leads to his removal from Harold Wilson’s government and his ostracization by a large section of the population. Broadbent internalises this perfectly and Longford’s inner weaknesses are most apparent during the scene in which he listens to a tape sent to him and when he and his wife Elizabeth, (Lindsay Duncan) discuss his advocacy for Hindley.
Andy Serkis, though only in a supporting role, fully embraces the disturbing and threatening presence of Ian Brady. His underlying ferocity is kept in check which gives the performance an extra element of menace which makes it all the more frightening.
Longford is a dark and engaging drama that highlights one of the often-forgotten parts of the horrific Moors Murders. Its combination of an excellent script, powerful performances from all the cast and stunning direction means that it will be remembered for years to come as a truly powerful piece of work. If you have yet to see Longford, I would highly recommend it.