4 July 2004 | trpdean
I own very few movies - this is one of them. I've seen it many times and am always moved.
It is of course part of the special "Angry Young Man" genre that includes Billy Liar, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, The Entertainer, Darling, A Taste of Honey, This Sporting Life, Look Back in Anger, Room at the Top, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning - and in later years, In Celebration and The Homecoming.
Such novelists/playwrights as John Braine, Alan Sillitoe, David Storey, John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, John Wain, Shelagh Delaney, directors like Karel Reisz, John Schlesinger, Lindsay Anderson and Tony Richardson, and such screenwriters as Waterhouse and Hall (who wrote this as Billy Liar).
The movies are primarily about men trapped by place and morality -- and either lashing out/escaping or trying to accommodate themselves to their situation. Most are set in the north of England - all are about people from working class backgrounds.
Stars like Richard Harris, Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Ian Holm, Albert Finney, and Tom Courtenay broke in their film teeth with these movies - and others such as Richard Burton, Lawrence Olivier, Laurence Harvey and Dirk Bogarde revealed their expansive range.
The protagonists are often not likable - certainly the pitiful Archie Rice in The Entertainer, Burton's character in Look Back in Anger, Finney's in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Courtenay's character in "Long Distance Runner" or Richard Harris' character -- are all people you'd rather not accompany on a long train journey.
However, Vic Brown, the protagonist in this one - is largely sympathetic (and wonderfully written and portrayed). His plight is just so realistic - and the consequences so easy to believe.
There are many things that our lad gets wrong - unable to break things off with a woman, he simply ignores her (and speaks badly of her to others) - yet is helpless when she suggests they get together again. In part, this is because his lust masters him - and in part because he just can't bear to tell someone he no longer wants to see her.
As awful as most audiences will find Ingrid's mother (wonderfully played), one can also have sympathy for her - a widow overly protective of her only child, and the circumstances in which her child finds herself.
The modesty of the characters is wonderful yet not overly done - it is the characteristic that yields immense sympathy in the viewer - this is especially true of the Brown family - from "our Christine" and her gentle husband to Vic's wonderful father and brother to his forceful mother.
Most of the reviews speak of this very much as a look back in time - I think it's not so past.
The themes are universal and timeless: lust and its consequences, indecision about a romantic partner, the division between a young person's caution about taking the right steps in life and closeness to family vs. inchoate yearnings to do great things far away - these are the stuff of such plays as The Fantasticks and such movies as It's a Wonderful Life. (Donna Reed's character wanted Jimmy Stewart's no less than Ingrid wanted Vic - and both men had dreamt to be far away doing great things).
This is wonderful - it will strike anyone as sharply observed, wonderfully written - and very moving.