27 February 2005 | Translation-1
Essential, dark drama
Director Carol Reeds version of A.J. Cronins novel of poverty, greed and unfulfilled dreams still seems fresh today despite its sixty years.
Michael Redgrave stars as Davey Fenwick, a bright man from a poor mining background, who wins a scholarship to university. He hopes to graduate and then enter politics, so as to work to end the suffering of his kith and kin and their ilk.
However, his plans change when he meets and falls in love with Jenny Sunley (played by Margaret Lockwood), a strikingly beautiful but manipulative and materialistic little minx who has just been cruelly dumped (why???) by her boyfriend, Daveys old friend, the ruthlessly ambitious Joe Gowlan (Emlyn Williams). Understandably smitten, Davey marries the lovely but self-centred Jenny and, at her instigation, quits university and moves home to work as a schoolteacher. But his world is turned upside down when trouble at the pit, Jennys restlessness and the reappearance of Joe, whom Jenny still loves and who is now flashily well-to-do,combine.
At the time, this was one of the most expensive films ever made in Britain. But it was well worth the investment. It assured Carol Reeds reputation and gave to film audiences and to posterity a grimly realistic picture of life at the sharp end in 30s Britain. The all-star cast too got a chance to show their ability, giving terrific performances; Redgrave is superb as the disillusioned idealist, Williams is thoroughly unpleasant as the unfeeling, cynical Joe while Margaret Lockwood, one-time screen ingénue in her first wicked girl role, gives a wonderful performance as the drop-dead gorgeous, vixenish, gold-digging Jenny.
As social commentary this is a great movie, but, on another, more profound level,it works as a dark, despairing canvas depicting the often destructive nature of human relationships. Essential viewing!