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Second Best [VHS]
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Product Description

In order to adopt a troubled young boy, a lonely, unmarried mail clerk must prove that he is emotionally qualified to love and nurture a child. He struggles to win the boy over, demonstrating that, simply by being present and caring, he is a better parent that the boy's absent father.

Customer Reviews:

  • One of the Most Underrated Films of the 1990s (Ever?)
    "Second Best" is not even on DVD. Few have heard of it. Its fans, judging from, are boy-lovers (in the erotic sense), though the film has virtually no sexual content. It's about a middle-aged postmaster (Graham) from Wales who feels the impulse to adopt a son (Jamie) and acts on it.

    And WOW WOW WOW. WOW for director Chris Mendes' visuals: the lush Welsh countryside...a boy's breath fogging on a pane of glass as he waits for his prospective father... WOW for the quiet and patience of this movie, the humanism of it, which recalls 1970s films like "Whose Life Is It Anyways?" "Testament," "Breaking Away" and "Ordinary People."

    WOW for Chris Cleary Miles turning in the best child acting I've ever seen, easily eclipsing Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood and even the talented Haley Joel Osmont. His demanding role as a troubled youth (which involved a lot of screen-time) asked him to be both sweet and manipulative, to make us believe he could fall either way--into goodness or evil, happiness or heartbreak. It asked him to run through quite a gamut of emotions (fear, mischief, sullenness, sadness, joy, impatience, rebellion, anger, affection, etc.) and each is portrayed with utter convincing naturalism.

    WOW for William Hurt's performance, perhaps his finest. He is at his best in subtle intelligent humanist fare like "Kiss of the Spiderwoman," "The Doctor," and "Altered States"; I'm not convinced he plays as well in satire ("Broadcast News") or sci-fi ("Dune," "Lost in Space"). Hurt's Graham is someone we all know: The middle-aged single who's pleasant but a little eccentric (dweeby as the kids would say) and who has failed at love by feeling most women are "out of his league."

    Both these main characters transform significantly but believably across the film. In fact this film's naturalism is so amazing you feel like you're spying on people rather than viewing a film. This 1994 movie's message about older and younger males bonding by choice in a time of paternal exile in our disintegrating nuclear families grows more relevant with each passing year.

    WOW for the great minor characters in "Second Best," including Graham's stroke victim father and the sassy social worker who guides him through the phases of adoption.

    WOW that this picture's fan-base encompasses pederasts and more traditional conservative people interested in the subject of adoption. The father-son love the movie depicts is physically affectionate (though non-sexual) enough to appeal to the former and soulfully substantial enough to appeal to the latter. It's audience in fact should be everyone. Where's the DVD? And: Spread the word!

    NOTE: The film has a heartwarming ending which it absolutely earns through its realism and believability....more info
  • William Hurt's Best Film
    One of the most heart-touching films out there -- the acting by both William Hurt and his adopted son are fantastic. Only why isn't it on DVD yet?!...more info
  • One of the best films on the trials of loving a boy.
    I knew it would be hard to deal with an adopted child who has had a troubled life, but this movie is a real eye opener. Mr. Hurt does an extradionary job in this movie, one of his best performances. If you are interested at all in adopting an older boy, see this movie. If you want to feel the love and experience the work this type of relationship requires then by all means see this film. It is the best bargan price at, and stands in a class by itself, don't comare it to other movies which may be recommended along with it. Second best is a classic, and I fear it will become a lost classic soon.

    ...more info
  • Deserves a wider audience
    Graham Holt is a middle-aged bachelor Welsh bachelor who decides to adopt a child. He ends up with Jamie, a ten-year old boy whose mother committed suicide when he was three, and whose father is now in prison.

    As Graham struggles to bond with his new son, he is forced to confront the memories of his own lonely childhood and to "compete" wtih Jamie's father, whom Jamie is convinced will return and claim him.

    In a series of small steps, rather than big leaps, the two learn to trust and care for one another. Both William Hurt (Graham) and Chris Cleary Miles (Jamie) do a good job of conveying the difficulties and frustrations of reaching out to another human being, fearful all the while of rejection. Jane Horrocks as a saucy social worker, Prunella Scales as a no-nonsense one and John Hurt as Graham's irascible uncle add a light touch to what, at times, is an emotionally painful story. Keith Allen is memorable as Jamie's father, who finally does return to his boy, but not as we expect.

    I've read David Cook's novel (now unfortunately out of print); this film is relatively faithful to it. Both deserve to be more widely known. At a time when more and more single people are adopting, I can't think of a more appropriate "re-definition" of family....more info

  • An intense movie
    William Hurt plays a grown man who still feels his parents, particularly his father didn't love him as they should have. He stays single and shy. Then he reaches out to a troubled boy, played by Chris Cleary Miles, and proceeds to adopt him. The adoption process is a bit ackward for him. The boy has serious mental problems and proves to be a challenge. This is a drama with funny and touching moments. It's too bad this movie wasn't a bigger hit....more info
  • Proudest moments..............
    I know that, if I were William Hurt, my proudest moments would be my performance in this little known and largely unheralded film.

    And for those like this viewer, whose collection must include films with memorable performances and memorable moments, owning this motion picture is a necessity......despite the fact that it is currently available only on VHS.

    PS: Please also note that Chris Cleary Miles' apparently initial screen performance as the troubled youth is near amazing....more info
  • A Masterpiece in the Genre: Possibly William Hurt's Best Performance
    This overlooked film is possibly William Hurt's best performance. IMDB rates it a 7.0. Hurt, playing Graham Holt, morphs from a wooden, self conscious, unmarried, "not the masterful type" of small town postmaster into an emotional but strong, decisive and loving father of an emotionally disturbed young boy whom he has adopted.

    The boy, Jamie, is artfully played by Nathan Yapp. Jamie is haunted by memories of his mother's suicide and a brief kidnapping by his jailbird, drug addict father, played by Chris Cleary Miles, as Jamie says, "so we could spend some time together, get to be together."

    Yapp and Miles, both, give such riveting performances. It seems a shame that neither have done any work since this film.

    One might compare Second Best to American Heart with Jeff Bridges and Edward Furlong. That's a good film with Furlong playing his hurt and rejected kid role from T2 but little more. Bridges carries American Heart and the film will tug at your heart strings but it is no masterwork.

    Second Best will tug at your heart strings, tickle them to laughter, break them and then make them whole again. It is an extraordinary film about two people tenuously seeking family love and experiencing, in their own private ways, the fear of rejection and failure.

    I am very glad to see that Amazon has severed the links to "certain other films," possibly because of my prior, acidic comments.

    Don't be misled by any links connected with this film. This is not William Hurt in Kiss Of The Spider Woman; possibly his second best film (pun intended.) Second Best has nothing to do with pederasty.

    Second Best is a wonderful and warm family drama. Aside from a few crass lines, which are funny, this film is a real, wholesome piece of work about the terrors of extending love to a damaged child. If your kids are 10 or more years old, watch it with them. If you don't have kids, it might even inspire you to go out and adopt one....more info
  • Very Nice Film
    This is a focused, well-made, entertaining film. The plot is touching, and the actors portray the characters honestly and realistically. The specific troubles of the boy were sometimes unclear, and the ending somewhat sudden, but these are minor flaws and overall this is a movie certainly worth seeing. William Hurt is particularly moving as the lonely postmaster. Highly recommended....more info
  • Great Movie
    I saw this movie while working in Child Protective Services. It's a great teaching tool for any would be foster/adopt parent(s). I'd buy it for my own collection if they would ever release it to DVD or Blu-ray. I recommend you jump at the opportunity to watch this movie if you ever get the chance--it's quite moving and very much true to life. (It's definitely drama, so you'll have to be in the right mood to enjoy it). ...more info
  • Outstanding and Emotionally Charged Drama.
    As Graham Holt, Hurt gives one of his finest performances as a 40 something Welshman who's spent his entire life living with his parents in a tiny village. With his mother's recent passing and a mute, bedridden father, the lonely Graham wonders where his life has gone. An awkward, shy man Graham believes he has something to offer and having never really felt part of his parent's lives sets out to adopt a son and begin his own family.

    Soon paired up with James, an emotionally disturbed 10 year old, Graham finds there are limits to be tested, and while we may place barriers around our lives if we are honest there can be no true borders around the heart.

    This is a remarkable film and leaves me wondering why its director, Chris Menges (cinematographer for some of the most beautiful movies in the last quarter century) isn't directing more often. The performance he coaxes from young Chris Cleary Miles is never short of astonishing. James is a difficult role with wildly violent and sudden swings of mood and being and it could not have been easy for child; the character runs the gamut from innocent child to clever con and escape artist, survivalist, to obstinate manipulator. What is so painfully evident is that all the boy truly wants is a family but frightened - almost to death - of what that means.

    Mr. Hurt and young Mr. Miles find their way through these challenging roles and, as captured, offer cinematic storytelling of the highest order - a world where gestures speak louder and truer than words.

    That this movie hasn't yet made it onto DVD is incredible and an outrage. See if, by any means necessary.
    ...more info
  • Second Best a Review
    This film is an inspiring piece that details the relationship of a lonely Welch man and the boy he wishes to adopt. The primary appeal to this film is the outstanding chemistry between the boy and his potential step father. The scenic Welch country side in which this movie was filmed provides an excellent backdrop to which a complicated but facinating story begins to unfold. The details of the boy who comes from a troubled past and an iron willed man desiring to adopt a son comprise the main elements of this film's plot which is a continous string of gains and losses as the boy and prospective father experience both bonding and falling out. A well done film with both excellent acting and a well constructed plot....more info
  • Rental Nightmare
    I'm sure it's me but I rented a couple of these and it never went to my TIVO. I don't think I'll be renting (or buying) a download again....more info
  • A Well Done Film in Every Respect
    This film accurately portrays, I feel, the real world of the adoption of an older boy (Age 10) rather than adoptions of infants or very young children and in particular a boy with a very upsetting background. This film was highly emotional to me as I became so immersed with the different characters and the
    storyline. I do highly recommend this movie, although emotionally wrenching at times, it has a wonderful conclusion....more info