The Birthday Present (1957)

  |  Drama

The Birthday Present (1957) Poster

A top salesman with a U.K. toy firm foolishly brings an expensive watch back from a German trip for his wife's birthday. This is illegal in 1950's Britain and when Customs discover the ... See full summary »


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29 April 2018 | DPMay
| Absorbing morality tale
Completely devoid of action or incidents of extreme drama, this 1957 film lets its story unfold in a rather matter-of-fact fashion and yet manages to remain absorbing throughout. Essentially a study of morality, it follows a young enterprising travelling sales representative played by Tony Britton who returns from a business trip abroad, bringing back with him an expensive watch he is going to give his wife (played by Sylvia Syms) as a birthday present. Having already managed to purchase the watch at a bargain price, he tries to save himself even more money by sneaking it unseen through customs to avoid paying import duty on it upon his return to the UK.

However, his attempt to cheat is discovered by the customs officials. His initial laissez-faire attitude is an indicator that he regards neither the action he has committed or its consequences as anything really serious, but it has in fact triggered a chain of events that sees his entire life falling down around him. Britton and Syms deliver excellent performances as the situation grows more desperate at each turn, as the main character's career, home, social standing and maybe also his very marriage are threatened by an unexpected spell in prison, a humbling experience for a man who sees himself as being above the status of the warders, let alone the other inmates.

Is it fair for a good man to lose everything he has because of one momentary lapse of judgement which didn't harm anyone? That is the predominant question asked by this film, which will challenge the viewer to think through the possible consequences of any decision more fully in future.

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