This is the only full-length feature film the great Bill Douglas made: the story of the Tolpuddle martyrs, exiled to Australia in 1834 when they dared to fight for a trade union. Keith Allen, Imelda Staunton and Philip Davis are better-known now than they were then and other stars like Vanessa Redgrave have upper-class cameos on the margins of the story. Douglas' committed but imaginative vision doesn't just tell us the moving and powerful story of the comrades; his fascination with the predecessors of the medium of film is expressed through the figure of the lanternist, who wanders through the action with a host of optical devices from camera obscura to diorama.
“An unsung masterpiece, both eminently watchable and hugely demanding. Reissued at last, it remains an extraordinary work.”