Never Apologize is a one-man stage show performed by actor Malcolm McDowell in tribute to Lindsay Anderson, the revered British film director. Anderson gave McDowell his first big break in cinema, casting him in the cult classic If..... They would go on to further collaborate on the films O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital, as well as multiple stage plays. Anderson died in 1994, ten years after his last major motion picture, The Whales of August, which was produced by and featured McDowell's then wife, Mary Steenburgen. Theirs were paths that never stopped crossing.
The monologue was put together by McDowell from his personal memories and also using the diaries of Anderson and of writer David Sherwin, who scripted the three movies the pair made together. Never Apologize is clearly coming from the heart, and the anecdotes that McDowell shares are genuinely funny, shedding light on their creative relationship and the wild times that informed their groundbreaking motion pictures. Other cinema figures show up, including John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, and Bette Davis, and McDowell does amusing impressions of them all. He even reads Anderson's diary entry about meeting John Ford and dons Ford's trademark gruff manner.
Most of Never Apologize is just McDowell onstage, with brief clips from the movies discussed and also still images to illustrate the various tales. McDowell is engaging, but at times seems reserved. He goes to a podium to read from the other men's writing, and when he steps away, he regularly hangs on to his reading glasses. I guess this maybe gives him something to do with his hands, but for as small as the glasses are, they seem to actually put a block between him and the audience. This performance of Never Apologize was shot by director Mike Kaplan for television broadcast, and frankly, the production looks it. The multi-camera set-up has no real flair, and the video quality is not on par with what one would expect from a filmed concert in 2007. Did this really play at Cannes?
Which isn't to suggest I didn't enjoy Never Apologize, because I did. I like stories from film sets, and McDowell is a good one to tell them. It just seems like a strange program to push out on its own. The subject matter is so specific and the presentation so underplayed, it really seems like a documentary that would have best been left for a DVD extra. Finding some place to put it would have given Warner Bros. a good excuse to get an O Lucky Man! Blu-Ray in the pipeline, for instance. Then Never Apologize could have been anchored by one of its main subjects and served a much better function and value.
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired are available, as are subtitles in French and Spanish. (These aren't listed on the packaging, but they are on the DVD menu.)