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Read: Chappaquiddick and the cynicism of power

The Kennedy family history is a fascinating blend of power, success and tragedy. In Chappaquiddick, we witness one of the awful incidents that blighted the Kennedy dynasty.

In July 1969, Senator Ted Kennedy (brother of JFK and Robert) crashed his car into the ocean on Chappaquiddick Island. He escaped the submerged wreck, but his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned.

The scandal that erupted over the accident happened because Kennedy did not report the accident for over ten hours. There were allegations of a cover up, and in the end, Kennedy pled guilty to leaving the scene of the accident and received a two month suspended jail sentence.

Obviously, no one outside those intimately involved in the issue knows exactly what went on that night and therefore much of the conversations in the film are speculation. It’s not a good look for Kennedy though.

He claimed (without corroborating medical evidence) that he had a concussion from the accident, and that is why he acted the way he did. That is questionable, and it leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth, particularly when the film shows his theatrics in public which included wearing an unnecessary neck brace to the dead girls funeral.

Essentially this film paints a cynical picture of power and privilege and how those with power try to manipulate a tragedy to save their man. In the process, the innocent victim is forgotten and the person who caused the incident takes their place in the national conscience.

As I sat watching this film, I was astounded by Kennedy’s actions, but then I started to ask myself ‘what would I have done?’ There is an evident human need to protect oneself and Kennedy did what he had to do to save himself. It’s unpleasant, but it is human. 

Chappaquiddick is a very good film that shows the lengths the elite will go to protect their own and how power and influence can inhibit the justice process.

Ultimately, it illuminates how politics distorts our views of right and wrong, and diminishes the tragedy of an innocent persons death.

In cinemas 10th May 2018


101 Minutes

Starring:  Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan, Clancy Brown, Olivia Thirlby, Bruce Dern

Directed by:  John Curran



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