AFTER two decades of small screen success - Doctor Who, Enid and Black Mirror leap from a high profile CV - James Hawes’ first feature makes for an earnest and affecting cinematic debut.

The film is called One Life and stars Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas Winton, Hampstead’s so called “British Schindler”. For those too young to remember that iconic 1988 episode of Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life, Winton is remembered for his part in the rescue of 669, mostly Jewish, children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War. Johnny Flynn plays a young Winton in flashbacks, dramatising that story.

It is an astonishing thing to think that Winton’s role in the saving of over six hundred young lives went virtually unnoticed for almost half of his own life. Even when nuggets of the story finally began to emerge, disinterest in the press almost buried it forever. That’s life, ey?

A serviceable script by Nick Drake and The Danish Girl’s Lucinda Coxon does a fair job of recreating the ebbs and flows of the story, opening with Winton’s rediscovery of his 1939 journal in his attic and building to his eventual crescendo of recognition, via dabbles in the past. As a drama, it’s conventional to a fault but elevated splendidly by an array of imperious performances.

While Hopkins and Flynn are excellent, Helena Bonham Carter proves - as ever - a scene stealer, playing Babette, Winton’s formidable mother and Blighty-based campaign manager. Lena Olin, Jonathan Pryce and Romola Garai too make for admirable co-stars, while Samantha Spiro rounds things off nicely as Rantzen.

There is no world in which the film could have matched the extraordinary effect of Winton’s That’s Life reunion - Rantzen filled her audience with the grown up children he’d rescued - but it’s a moving recreation. Stronger by far would be Hawes’ handling of the rescue operation itself.

Nine trains, each full of evacuating youngsters, were deployed in the effort. The passing of each does only to ramp up the pressure. By the turn of the ninth, the tension is unbearable. As Nazis flood the station - Hitler had just invaded Poland - your heart will burst through your mouth. Knowing the outcome has little bearing on living the moment.

Winton passed away in 2015 at the age of 106. His legacy will never leave us.