This young man (Leonard Whiting) emerges from his family home in Cobham and asks his father to kiss him on the threshold of the doorway, to which he gets an amused brush off, but then he is used to his son's weird ways. As they walk through the clear but wintry morning, the man chatters away until they reach the factory gates and his father, having chided him for being a feckless, directionless, jobless youth bids him farewell, reluctantly accepting the birthday money his son presses into his hand, money his mother gave the man but he refuses to take. However, there's someone else he can celebrate his birthday with...
And what's the best present you can get on your birthday? Well, that's very much a matter of opinion, but what the young man gets is heartache, only eventually as before that he gets to go to bed with Jean Simmons. She was playing the other character in this one-day romance, a middle-aged lady who when she set out that morning thought she was just going on a shopping trip to London, only to meet the man (you'll have noticed that not only do they never find out each others' names but neither do we) on the train. The problem with that is she was reluctant as a married with two kids woman to be entering into a free spirited liaison with this embodiment of devil-may-care youth.
Part of the problem for us is that we can completely see why, as Whiting, best known then and now for playing the former half of Romeo and Juliet in the Franco Zeffirelli Shakesepare adaptation of 1968, came across as not charming, but like a budding sex offender as he won't take no for an answer and continues to pester the woman who makes it clear she is not interested. You could see this as slotting into the genre of late sixties/early seventies psychological thrillers from Britain with unusual young chaps going bonkers and often murdering someone in the process, except that here nothing of the sort occurs. Actually, this wasn't a thriller at all, it was romance through and through.
Canadian director in Britain Alvin Rakoff was the man at the helm, co-writing the script and with Geoffrey Unsworth's photography if nothing else conjuring up a mood of the era not so much through his characters, but more with the locations and the atmosphere of a late in the year London where the party of the previous decade was well and truly winding down and the country was preparing itself for political and social turmoil. As far as that went, Say Hello to Yesterday was worth catching with those themes of the present trying to hang onto the past yet finding it slipping through their fingers, embodied in the young man's pursuit of an older, still attractive woman.
But he didn't half come across as seriously mentally unbalanced, so much so that you spend the film awaiting the appearance of a flick knife, and when he wasn't menacing he was irritating, making you wish the lady would tell him where to go in no uncertain terms and then get on with her shopping. Early on he passes over a young woman (uncredited Susan Penhaligon) on the train and latches on to Simmons' frosty mature lady, but apart from her being played by an actual movie star it's difficult to see why - was he trying to prove something? He describes her as Everest to be climbed and spends the rest of the day leading her astray as against all reasonable odds she decides to go along with him as they visit various places - including the home of her mother (stage singing star Evelyn Laye), a hospital and a playpark for purposes unexplained - as all the while he coaxes her further to a swanky apartment he has bluffed his way to getting the keys for her ultimate seduction. It's supposed to leave you misty-eyed, but it'll likely leave you uneasy. Lush, twee music by Riz Ortolani.