A Kind of Loving Review
Vic Brown (Alan Bates) works as a draughtsman in a Northern English town and dreams of having a career and seeing the world. He goes out with Ingrid Rothwell (June Ritchie) and they sleep together. But then Ingrid announces she is pregnant. Vic and Ingrid marry hurriedly but are unable to buy a house together. They move in with Ingrid's mother (Thora Hird), who takes an immediate dislike to Vic...
A Kind of Loving was based on a novel by Stan Barstow, adapted for the screen by Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse. Barstow (who turned eighty this year) is a Yorkshireman, though the film was shot on location the other side of the Pennines, in Bolton, Preston and Greater Manchester. (I haven't read the original novel, so I don't know if these locations reflect it or not.) The film is very much in the genre, which I described in my review of A Taste of Honey, of “Northern kitchen-sink drama”, of ordinary people in (at the time) socially deprived areas, of (usually) men trying to improve themselves and being thwarted by social mores and class consciousness. It should be said that while most of these films are based on pre-existing works from writers who came from such backgrounds, that isn't necessarily the case with the makers of the film versions. While Tony Richardson may have been Yorkshire-born, people like Lindsay Anderson (This Sporting Life - born in India) and, in the present case, John Schlesinger (London) certainly were anything but Northerners. (For that matter, the producer Joseph Janni was Italian.) That's not to say the films are inauthentic, though as a Southerner born after the film was made I'm clearly in no position to judge that – clearly a local cast and Northern writers (not just Barstow, but Hall and Waterhouse as well) would have a huge effect on the finished film. And there is something to be said for an outsider's perspective: if Schlesinger's Southernness invalidates this film, then it does the same to Midnight Cowboy, and this line of argument falls apart.
Schlesinger, born in 1926, had made his name on TV with some documentaries in the same Monitor slot that Ken Russell and others had worked for, and had made a critically-lauded short portrait of Waterloo Station called Terminus. A Kind of Loving was his first feature. As with A Taste of Honey, this film made use of the BBFC X certificate (now a 12) to allow more adult content onto British screens: although it may seem circumspect by today's standards, this film may well have the first mention of a missed period in British cinema. You can see the filmmakers tiptoe up to the nudity taboo which was still in force at the time, with June Ritchie almost but not quite revealing all in one key scene. Fascinating stuff for social historians and students of censorship history, no doubt, but just as importantly it's in the service of a film that is well written, impeccably made and acted and which has a compelling if depressing narrative. Denys Coop's black and white camerawork makes the most of the genuine locations (interiors were shot back at Shepperton Studios).
However, reservations do creep in, and first amongst mine is that the film is noticeably biased in favour of Vic. It's a noticeably male-oriented work from a pre-feminist time. Vic may well feel trapped by the responsibilities of marriage and being a parent – not for nothing does the script use the praying mantis, whose females eat the males, as a metaphor. But Ingrid could just as likely say the same thing. As a result, Vic, for all Alan Bates's fine acting, is less likeable than I suspect he's intended to be, in fact positively selfish at times. But the film's worst bile is directed at Thora Hird's cold, snobbish mother-in-law – for all Hird's efforts, not far short of caricature. Some soon-to-be familiar faces turn up in small roles: James Bolam, Jack Smethurst, Leonard Rossiter, Patsy Rowlanlds, Kathy Staff and Helen Fraser among them. On the other hand, June Ritchie's film career didn't really take off, and she has been seen mostly on television in the last four decades.
For all that, A Kind of Loving is a key British film of its time, and – if the society and its mores it depicts are now dated – is still good enough to stand up today.
A Kind of Loving
is one of four “60s Classics” released on the same day by Optimum. The disc is a DVD-5 encoded for Region 2 only.
A Kind of Loving is anamorphically enhanced, with thin black lines top and bottom giving an aspect ratio of approximately 1.80:1. This would suggest an intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is unusual for a small-scale, locally-intended British film of its time. (The other three Optimum releases are all in the then more usual ratio of 1.66:1.) However, it seems to be correct.
The transfer is fine: sharp and with correct contrast, with grain natural and filmlike.
The soundtrack is the original mono, and dialogue is clearly audible, though some may struggle with the Northern accents. As ever with Optimum there are no subtitles available, nor are there any extras.