It's Christmas, and likely lad Ricky Flint (Mike Sarne) is dreaming of a life away from this one, away from his Bethnal Green home in London which he shares in cramped circumstances with his parents (Bernard Lee and Doris Hare), sister Betsy (Barbara Ferris) and her husband Jim (David Andrews). Things are going to be even more busy in their pre-War accommodation as Betsy is expecting, but they think they can at least enjoy a quiet Christmas, which is what Ricky arrives back from the pub to join in with. However, his father is somewhat the worse for drink and full of his own importance as he has packed in his job as a docker because he had fallen out with his union, and as a party piece he sets fire to the decorations. Ricky really needs a change of scene...
By 1964, the kitchen sink drama was well-established; there had been nascent examples stretching back to the nineteen-forties, but the form truly took hold in the late fifties and in the movies at least began to dwindle thanks to one film that was released this year: A Hard Day's Night. The Beatles did not simply revolutionise music, they did the same to the culture, and ushered in the so-called Swinging Sixties as we know it, which was reflected in film as much as it was anywhere else. That said, there were holdouts from the British realism movement, though they did tend to show up on television rather than the silver screen, and this example arrived just as the style grew unfashionable for cinemas.
Not that everyone now wanted to see their favourite pop groups and singers mucking about on celluloid, but they were cheap and easy to make, plus they often guaranteed a profit on modest budgets, which brought us to A Place to Go, a neither one thing nor the other effort that fell between two stools. It was redolent of the gritty, working class milieu of the likes of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or A Kind of Loving, yet featured as its lead Mike Sarne, a pop star who had enjoyed a huge hit with Come Outside, a borderline novelty record that the public found infernally catchy. They even got him to sing a bit here, as this sort of era practically demanded a theme tune crooned or trilled by a popular artiste.
Well, at least we see Ricky singing in the pub, which makes you think it will be yet another tale of a struggling performer who wins out against the odds, but once that introduction is over his vocalisations are never referred to again. He already has a job, but he hates it, and to better himself he needs money he thinks he can get by falling in with gangsters and effectively robbing the factory he works in; he has this all planned out, he simply needs accomplices. This positioned Ricky as an anti-hero at best, at worst totally unsympathetic and this was one of those dramas which set out to make an example of its protagonist whilst simultaneously teaching him a lesson, which you would have to agree they assuredly did by the time the end credits rolled. But what's this we see? Sarne was not top-billed?
Nope, that post went to one of the queens of British realist cinema, Rita Tushingham, putting on a Cockney accent and essaying the role of Ricky's sort of girlfriend Cat Donovan. We can never be sure if she will end up with him since she has a habit of taking massive umbrage at whatever he says and storming out of the scene, which has the effect of having you baffled at what either sees in the other one, as they don't get along very well at all. But then, the characterisation here was not as keen as you would expect in a film directed by Basil Dearden, for almost everyone was a caricature of some description rather than a believable individual, and it was only the occasional instance of eccentricity, such as the escapology act Ricky's dad is convinced will provide him with an income, that made it stand out from too many similar contemporaries. What it did have in its favour was a dedication to capturing a London it fully acknowledged was changing; setting it over the festive period was more to do with having the chill in the air than a traditional Christmas and New Year entertainment, though you had to assume it was a mild winter judging by how often the characters hung around outside. Music by Charles Blackwell.