Eric Lomax’s widow has hailed special screenings of The Railway Man in Berwick, a week before its national release, as the film’s “coming home”.
Stars Colin Firth and Jeremy Irvine were among the special guests who attended the premier screening in The Maltings on Friday.
Eric’s wife Patti Lomax, who introduced the film to a sell-out audience, said: “Eric’s book was written here, so this is where it all began. Eric and I belong to Berwick – it’s a very special place. This is bringing the story home.”
Based on Eric’s best-selling memoir, the film tells the story of his struggle to live a normal life after returning from the Second World War, when he was forced to work on the notorious Burma Railway, and tortured by the Japanese.
After a lifetime plagued by his experience, Eric vows to take revenge on the man who has haunted his dreams for decades – the Japanese interpreter who was present during his torture sessions.
The young and old Eric are played by Irvine and Firth respectively, with Nicole Kidman starring as Patti.
“Eric would have been very proud and a little bit humble, I think, that this has become such a big film,” Patti said.
“I think it is a marvellous film, I really do. So often films don’t relate to a book at all, but I don’t think Eric would find fault with the dedication or love that has been put into this by the filmmakers.”
Although based on a Second World War memoir, The Railway Man holds significance today. It prompts a greater understanding of our history, reconciliation, and of the ongoing damage that mental scars of war can have.
“I hope that it will help people who are struggling with the effects of war to seek help,” Mrs Lomax told us. “It shows people that post-traumatic stress does not clear up on its own. Often those affected don’t know they have a problem, and it’s the families that notice it first.
“Eric was able to overcome his circumstances and move beyond them,” she added. “That’s really another message; that no matter how bad some things are, you can move forward.
“It’s a hard film to see, but it has an uplifting end.”
Speaking to us ahead of the screening, producer Andy Paterson said: “This is where the whole journey began.
“We have been up to Berwick so many times over the years to try and understand the story. We began this process in 1999, so we’ve hit the 15- year mark between taking it on and getting it on the screen. But it was a story that would never let you go.
“We came in the summer to show Patti the film – it was probably the most nerve wracking moment of my life! Fortunately, she liked it. This is where it began; we were always going to come here.”