Len (Tom Bell) is a lighting electrician for various theatre, film and television projects, and is married to Joy (Judy Carne), an actress and model who he has just assisted on her latest TV commercial for shampoo. Their marriage is happy enough, they have two young children and seem stable, but when Len embarks on his latest job lighting a stage musical, something happens that he would rather not tell his wife about when he gets to talking to one of the chorus, Val (Olivia Hussey), and they hit it off. Soon they are in the pub together, chatting away and getting along very well indeed, then Len escorts her back to her home and on the way they start fooling around in the park – next thing they know this friendship has turned sexual.
Which would be bad enough for Joy, but there’s a further complication to the relationship between Len and Val that was very much in vogue in drama of the time in the wake of the success of Stanley Kubrick’s taboo-challenging adaptation of Lolita, and that was what would charitably be described as a May to December romance, or less tolerantly as cradle snatching. These films were not simply depicting a woman in her twenties and a man in his fifties falling for one another, more often it was some ageing star paired off with a rising talent of the day who would be playing a teenager, and so it was here as Hussey, though older in real life, was playing a fifteen-year-old while Bell was playing a thirty-two-year-old, old enough to know better than to encourage such a union.
Yet director Gerry O’Hara, who also penned the script drawn from his own life, treated the situation with such a casual approach that any sensationalism you might have expected was practically non-existent, it happens and it’s just one of those things, nothing to get outraged about. This mood may have been indicative of the time, or it may more probably been indicative of the sort of person who was in charge of the storytelling media who could present what was supposed to be some fantasy premise for the males watching and audiences would contemplate it with a serious frame of mind. Whether they would still do that in the twenty-first century was another matter, and the fact that Len is cheating on his wife simply made it less acceptable.
Not helping was that we really couldn’t understand what the attraction Len and Val had for each other was, maybe if it was more passionate coupling we could put it down to lust, yet O’Hara filmed any hint of sexuality with a coy, obscure delivery, so much so that it’s almost a surprise when the girl thinks she’s pregnant. In fact, Len comes across as if anything more passionate with his wife, who was played by Carne, then best known for her comedy work on TV sensation Laugh-In, not as someone you would especially want to escape from, indeed she seems perfectly appealing in contrast to the pretty but pretty vacant Val, Hussey fresh off her star making turn in Romeo and Juliet, not one she capitalised on for major fame. It was as if there was something the film wasn’t telling us, some hidden secret that was about to be revealed.
But really the only secret was that Len was keeping his underage mistress from his wife, and it wasn’t enough to sustain the ninety minutes this lasted. The twist halfway through that Val might be expecting should have sent a shockwave through the drama, possibly turning it into melodrama, but even that fizzled out, leaving a conclusion that was not particularly definitive, more a shrug of the shoulders. There were slight distractions such as Len’s no good father (Robert Keegan) showing up to beg for money he’s just going to gamble or drink away, though that came across as padding, as did the supposedly lyrical shots of the characters frolicking on the beach accompanied by folk star Melanie’s plaintive tones on the soundtrack. More usefully perhaps was the milieu of very late sixties Britain, as this was all shot on location and offered a snapshot of times gone by, though the time that had gone by where this sort of romance could be shown in such matter of fact fashion may be the most striking aspect.