Yesterday morning I went to see a screening of First Light, the BBC’s new adaptation of Goeff Wellum’s classic memoir. I have to admit that having been so close to the book ever since Geoff’s manuscript first landed on my doorstep over nine years ago, I was pretty apprehensive. I needn’t have been. It’s a really fantastic film, profoundly moving, and beautifully acted throughout. The air sequences felt very real and there is a terrific sequence when the young eighteen year-old Geoff flies the Spitfire for the first time, while the opening scene,where his lone Spitfire is caught in a terrific rain storm, was my favourite episode in the book and is incredibly exciting on film. Geoff was at the screening and made it quite clear that he thought this was the most authentic portrayal of what it was like to fly back then that he had ever seen.
The book has been trimmed and the cast cut down – Brian Kingcombe seems to be squadron commander of 92, when in reality he was only a flight commander, but with limited budgets and eighty minutes to play with cuts necessarily need to be made. Don’t let this or the odd inconsistency with the Spitfires used put you off, however. At it’s heart, this is compelling drama. I had a lump in throat, and I defy anyone watching it not to feel the same.
It’s being shown next Tuesday, 14th September, on BBC 2, as part of the Beeb’s Battle of Britain season.