12 July 2005 | yiefthy
a small masterpiece on troubled adolescence
"Dear dad, I wish this journey would go on forever" writes young Roger Baxter to his ever-absent father, on the flight from America to England and right away tears up the letter and flushes it down the toilet. That's how this exquisite film about troubled adolescence, indifferent parents and the painful realization of commitment and loss begins. And it's no easy ride. Steering clear of the clichés that usually burden these movies, it offers us a clear and passionate view of the mind of this teenager in the way good British films do, in a simple no-nonsense way. (Kudos to actor-turned-director Lionel Jeffries for his efficient "invisible" direction).
A little about the story: Roger Baxter comes to London with his divorced mother. They are rich and he's enrolled in a very exclusive school, which he hates. His mother is a self-absorbed artistic socialite who has little time for her son. His father is still in the States and he's as absent to his son as he is to us viewers (we hardly ever see him). Also Roger has a speaking disability (he cannot pronounce "r") which further separates him from the rest of the "normal" people. The sun shines for our hero through a handful of encounters: to a young couple (a French chef and a Swedish model) who become surrogate older siblings, a young girl who's as close to a romantic interest that Roger comes to but not quite and the Speech therapist who's a much stronger mother figure than his own mother. Through a series of events Roger has his psyche shattered, but the end of this film, a great scene between Scott Jacobi and Jean-Pierre Cassell, is both optimistic and touching.
The acting is uniformly very good, but special mention must go to two actors who really carry the film. Scott Jacobi as Roger Baxter gives the performance of his career, while Patricia Neal as the speech therapist conveys both the quiet authority as well as the human warmth needed in the part (Favourite scene: Roger is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and his mother, not understanding what is happening with her son, slaps him. Patricia Neal grabs her wrist and in a very quiet voice says: "I am not a violent person and I will probably hate myself in the morning, but if you as so much as touch this boy I will break every bone in your body").
When the movie came out in the early seventies, a British film critic called it "a small masterpiece". Do find out for yourselves that indeed it is so.