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  Sky West and Crooked Love Fields
Year: 1966
Director: John Mills
Stars: Hayley Mills, Ian McShane, Annette Crosbie, Laurence Naismith, Geoffrey Bayldon, Pauline Jameson, Norman Bird, June Ellis, Hamilton Dyce, Judith Furse, Anne Blake, Jack Bligh, Michael Nightingale, Wyn Jones, Rachel Thomas, Jacqueline Pearce, Alan Lake
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: A few years ago when Brydie White (Hayley Mills) was a little girl, she was involved with an accident which has affected her ever since. Somehow a childhood friend got hold of a shotgun, and while they were running about with it they tripped and it went off, killing the boy. Since then, Brydie has been in a state of trauma which means her mental age is below her years, as she is seventeen now but prefers to hang around with the children of her village. Her alcoholic single mother (Annette Crosbie), never the same since either, is little help to her, but what if there was someone who could make her grow up?

Of course, that's what the villagers are worried about as they realise Brydie is growing into womanhood and with her simple outlook on life she could be taken advantage of, but the story presents the character with such an ideal male that few could have grumbled about his inclusion, not least the way he helps her shake off the past she can barely recall due to the shock of the incident. Sky West and Crooked, local slang for being touched in the head, was the only film to be directed by Hayley's father John Mills, and as it was something of a family affair, the plot was drawn from a story by her mother, Mary Hayley Bell.

It garnered a cautiously appreciative, but not exactly enthusiastic, response when it was released back in the mid-sixties, nowhere near the acclaim Whistle Down the Wind, also starring Hayley and from a story by her mother, received a handful of years earlier. Perhaps it was because the star was playing someone older in years but about the same age mentally as she had been essaying roles in for all her previous movies which made viewers feel discomfited, as if to say wait, we know she's getting older but this brings up all sorts of questions about the part she has taken here, questions that the villagers can't help but ask in the film. It was well seen that her next project after this was The Family Way, and she was allowed to grow up on screen at last.

Still, she looked so young that many audiences were unsure of precisely how old Brydie was supposed to be, which added a layer of unwanted creepiness to the interest in her shown by Roibin (Ian McShane). He is a gypsy passing through the area with his companions, and saves her from being hassled by the sexton in the graveyard when she goes to visit the grave of the boy who was killed a while back. He takes an immediate interest in her, although there's not much indication that he is emotionally stunted as well, which renders the romance curious at best. We later discover that he is an honorable sort as the story moves on, but for a period we do worry for the girl when he appears.

In fact it all ends happily, but not before the film gets the main topic in its head out in the open: death. In spite of the rolling and lush countryside depicted, filmed in the West Country although for some reason half the cast are trying out Welsh accents, this is a very morbid work, as Brydie, for reasons she cannot grasp, cannot get death out of her mind and channels it through the animals she sees every day, from her deceased pet hamsters to a bee she finds while out and about in the sunny summertime. Such is her preoccupation that she decides that all these dead creatures need a proper burial, and the local children get caught up with her drive to do so, resulting in a stern ticking off from the clueless but kindly vicar (Geoffrey Bayldon). All very quirky, yet this grows oddly less substantial as it goes along, and by the time Brydie has been jolted into maturity, it's turned too ordinary for its own good. But for its awkwardness, it does stay in the mind. Music by Malcolm Arnold.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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