Newest Reviews
Whoopee Boys, The
Set, The
Cyrano de Bergerac
Death Walks in Laredo
Gemini Man
End of the Century
If Beale Street Could Talk
Raining in the Mountain
Day Shall Come, The
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown
Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, A
Sons of Denmark
Light of My Life
Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The
Jerky Boys, The
Chambre en Ville, Une
Mustang, The
Baie des Anges, La
Ready or Not
Seven Days in May
Hollywood Shuffle
Uncut Gems
Daniel Isn't Real
Presidio, The
Farewell, The
Challenge of the Tiger
Ad Astra
Winslow Boy, The
Pain and Glory
Judgment at Nuremberg
Rambo: Last Blood
Sansho the Bailiff
Newest Articles
Demy-Wave: The Essential Jacques Demy on Blu-ray
The Makings of a Winner: Play It Cool! on Blu-ray
Sony Channel's Before They Were Famous: A Galaxy of Stars
Start Worrying and Hate the Bomb: Fail-Safe on Blu-ray
Completely Different: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 2 on Blu-ray
Bash Street Kid: Cosh Boy on Blu-ray
Seeing is Believing: Being There on Blu-ray
Top Thirty Best (and Ten Worst) Films of the 2010s by Andrew Pragasam
Top of the Tens: The Best Films of the Decade by Graeme Clark
Terrorvision: A Ghost Story for Christmas in the 1970s
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
A Real-Life Pixie: A Tribute to Michael J. Pollard in Four Roles
We're All In This Together: The Halfway House on Blu-ray
Please Yourselves: Frankie Howerd and The House in Nightmare Park on Blu-ray
Cleesed Off: Clockwise on Blu-ray
Sorry I Missed You: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort on Blu-ray
Silliest of the Silly: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 1 on Blu-ray
Protest Songs: Hair on Blu-ray
Peak 80s Schwarzenegger: The Running Man and Red Heat
Rock On: That'll Be the Day and Stardust on Blu-ray
Growing Up in Public: 7-63 Up on Blu-ray
Learn Your Craft: Legend of the Witches and Secret Rites on Blu-ray
  Optimists, The Keep SmilingBuy this film here.
Year: 1973
Director: Anthony Simmons
Stars: Peter Sellers, Donna Mullane, John Chaffey, Marjorie Yates, David Daker
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Drama
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Poverty-stricken young Liz (Donna Mullane) and her little brother Mark (John Chaffey) grow fascinated with Sam (Peter Sellers), an aging street performer whose shabby looks and private melancholy belie his infectious zest for life. With their parents preoccupied trying to earn a crust, the children follow Sam about his daily routine, performing song and dance numbers for pennies alongside his scruffy dog Bella. Liz and Mark slowly discover Sam has much to teach them about life, whilst he in turn warms to them.

This little known gem features what many, including Peter Sellers himself, would argue was his greatest performance. Compared with his admittedly dazzling work in Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Being There (1979) the role of downtrodden, tragicomic music hall performer Sam finds Sellers delivering a far more nuanced characterisation. One by turns tender, acerbic and humane. Sellers went busking for real along the streets of London, as one can tell from the bemused faces of passers by. Alongside a handful of George Formby styled ukulele numbers written by Oliver! (1968) composer Lionel Bart, with additional music by legendary Beatles producer George Martin, Sellers recites comical, yet profound verse illustrating Sam’s defiantly upbeat attitude in the face of adversity.

Writer-director Anthony Simmons adapts his own novel, working from a script penned by Hammer horror veteran Tudor Gates. Simmons had been directing movies since the Fifties, though he wasn’t prolific. He went on to direct a great deal for British television, from Inspector Morse and A Touch of Frost through to Supergran, besides the occasional film including Little Sweetheart (1989), an altogether darker take on childhood. The Optimists comes across in part as a love letter to a London that was gradually disappearing before residents eyes. This is murky Seventies London, where the Swinging Sixties were almost as distant a memory as Sam’s music hall glory days and the camerawork has a rough-hewn, documentary feel that strips sentimentality away in favour of emotional honesty. It is a far from rose-tinted vision with streets full of garbage and half-demolished buildings, but delivers a unique juxtaposition of muck and magic where colourful street performers embody the enduring human spirit.

Even though this is a family film, there is an underlining grit with coarse language and child heroes that are believably smart-alecky whilst still being likeable. Donna Mullane proves an especially fine foil for Sellers with her soul-penetrating stare. Though its meandering plot and deliberate pace left it an acquired taste even back in 1973, the intelligent, challenging script allows Sam and the children to discuss life, death, the past and future. Sellers imbues Sam with quiet dignity, even whilst he quietly confesses to being abandoned by his parents, wife and child. He makes the most of a powerful scene where Sam berates the children’s father (David Daker) for all but ignoring them, though it is a mark of the script’s maturity that one cannot begrudge their parents who are merely struggling to get by. Aside from Sellers’ beguiling song and dance routines there is a charming sequence where the children try on his closet full of fancy dress costumes and a memorable trip to see the newly built tower blocks. Ironically, what is today an eyesore for Londoners marks for our young heroes the promise of a brighter future.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 1453 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
  Butch Elliot
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Paul Shrimpton


Last Updated: