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  Family Way, The Love And Marriage
Year: 1966
Director: Roy Boulting
Stars: Hayley Mills, Hywel Bennett, John Mills, Marjorie Rhodes, Avril Angers, John Comer, Murray Head, Barry Foster, Wilfred Pickles, Liz Fraser, Andy Bradford, Diana Coupland, Thorley Walters, Margaret Lacey, Helen Booth, Harry Locke, Windsor Davies
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the day of the wedding between Jenny Piper (Hayley Mills) and Arthur Fitton (Hywel Bennett), but they will have to move in with Arthur's parents - Ezra (John Mills) and Lucy (Marjorie Rhodes) - because they cannot afford a place of their own. The couple are none too bothered about seeing each other the morning before the big event, even though others think it's bad luck, but those superstitious minds may well be right, and it doesn't help that Arthur drops the ring at the altar during the ceremony. So what does the problem turn out to be? How about the groom unwilling to consummate the marriage?

The Family Way was Hayley Mills' first proper adult role, a big deal at the time although the film has been forgotten in recent years, which is a pity because it turns out to be really rather marvellous. It was based on a television play called All in Good Time by Bill Naughton, and when the big screen version was released it was fashionable to say that it had been better as the more compact small screen rendering, but with a longer running time the esteemed filmmaking team of the Boulting Brothers offered the characters more room to breathe.

Which was ironic when you consider that the two central characters are feeling so stifled by the society around them, suffocated even. The pressure that Arthur and Jenny are under makes itself plain before their union has begun, and when, on the wedding night, a prank sees the bed collapse and Arthur left humiliated, this is the beginning of a brick wall being built up between the two. It's not that they don't love each other, it's more like they cannot go ahead with what is supposed to come naturally when they feel the eyes of the community are on them, and the fact that they're in a house with paper thin walls through which they can hear Ezra snoring at night is not helping.

To make matters worse, the honeymoon they had planned to the Continent has been cancelled when the company setting it up for them is revealed to be a fraud, so they cannot get any time alone. There are five of them under one roof, with Arthur's brother Geoffrey (Murray Head) there too, and the longer the marriage goes on the way it does, the more he is attracted to his sister-in-law, especially when Arthur's projectionist job means his evenings are not free. All through this the cast are exemplary, whether it's the more antagonistic personalities such as Arthur's boss (Barry Foster) or the larger roles such as the parents.

Although this could have been the subject of sniggering sex comedy, the approach the filmmakers take is actually immensely sympathetic, and you really feel for the newlyweds as they suffer in silence and confusion. Of course, word begins to get round about their marital mishap, and this does them no good whatsoever, but even this gossip is not maliciously handled though it severely embarrasses the couple. The Family Way is an undeniably sentimental film, but it covers up its tearjerking moments with Northern English grit and some fine humour, nowhere better portrayed than in the relationship between the goodhearted but obtuse Ezra and the longsuffering yet wise Lucy - John Mills and Marjorie Rhodes are quite brilliant here. All in all, a charmer from start to finish, and with music by Paul McCartney which justifiably helped raise its profile.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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