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  Sunday Bloody Sunday Triangle Of Turmoil
Year: 1971
Director: John Schlesinger
Stars: Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson, Murray Head, Peggy Ashcroft, Maurice Denham, Tony Britton, Bessie Love, Vivian Pickles, Frank Windsor, Thomas Baptiste, Richard Pearson, June Brown, Hannah Norbert, Hannah Goldblatt, Caroline Blakiston, Jon Finch
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doctor Daniel Hirsh (Peter Finch) is seeing a patient who has been suffering a pain in his middle, and has to reassure him emphatically that it's probably nothing serious, certainly not cancer as the man suspects, but nevertheless he will send him for further tests just to be sure. As he reassures him, Daniel receives a telephone call, and has to phone him back; he is in a modern relationship where he shares his younger boyfriend Bob Elkin (Murray Head) with another woman, the divorcee Alex Greville (Glenda Jackson). Bob is very comfortable with this arrangement, but for the other two sides of this triangle it's getting to be awkward, for this is really the best they can hope for as far as love goes...

Sunday Bloody Sunday was a groundbreaking drama in its day, for it took on the subject of homosexuality and did not make a winking comedy out of it, but treated it matter of factly. The kiss between Finch and Head was a show of affection between two adults, not some terrible perversity as it was regarded by too many of the time, gay relationships having only recently been legalised, and that mattered a lot. Director John Schlesinger was a gay man, and the story here was loosely based on his own experiences, with critic Penelope Gilliat penning the screenplay, though there was some controversy about how much of her work reached the screen when there were rumours of rewrites behind the scenes.

None of the three main actors were homosexual, so yet again there was the case of a daring production for depicting homosexuals which didn't cast them, though often the reveal that the movie stars you were watching were not actually straight could have been a career-killer for them; we seem to have moved past that to a larger degree. Nevertheless, back in 1971 liberal sensibilities took what they could get, and Sunday Bloody Sunday was a fair-sized hit thanks to its positioning as a hugely grown-up drama that you just had to see to have an opinion on it, for these were adult characters having adult experiences and relating adult opinions: this was very serious indeed, so don't go expecting any big laughs.

That makes the film sound heavy handed, but though there was a weight on the shoulders of many of the souls populating the story, it was actually more contemplative than bashing the audience over the head with the issues it wanted to bring up, because it was about something far more relatable than the problems of minorities. It was about loneliness, and the lengths we go to stave that deadening, potentially aching sensation off, as many complained, and still do, that they could not see what the attraction was Daniel and Alex have for Bob, when the simple answer to that was that he was available. He didn't take them too seriously, they were just someone to be around for a while, to chat with, to have sex with, and then move on, unwilling to acknowledge that these two were struggling in their minds.

One of the ironies would be that if Daniel were heterosexual, he and Alex would have made a very nice couple, but it was not to be, one of the cruel circumstances that life throws up, so they had to rely on the flighty Bob to satisfy needs that if they were honest with themselves they would have to admit were some way from being satisfied at all. What they get is a quick fix of companionship from their lover, and then spend the rest of the time with this yawning chasm in their emotions, something that is intermittently filled with their memories, Alex of her parents and Daniel of his Jewish upbringing that serves as a source of guilt as he cannot come out to his family as he fears their reaction. Finch was actually too old for his role, but he was parachuted in at the last minute to replace Ian Bannen who was fired when he freaked out at having to kiss a man on camera, an indication of the bravery of this film's performers. Even now, aside from specialised films aimed at gay audiences, you don't often see same sex kissing, meaning Sunday Bloody Sunday could still shock some viewers. But though it was low key to a fault, you did feel the characters' emptiness. Music by Ron Geesin (with some Cosi Fan Tutte).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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