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  Private Road So Much For Love
Year: 1971
Director: Barney Platts-Mills
Stars: Susan Penhaligon, Bruce Robinson, Michael Feast, Robert Brown, George Fenton, Kathleen Byron, Patricia Cutts, Trevor Adams, Susan Brodrick, Paul Harper, Catherine Howe, Pamela Moiseiwitsch, Julia Wright
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ann Halpern (Susan Penhaligon) lives with her parents but is beginning to find their attention suffocating. They have secured her a job at a publishing agent's office run by a friend of theirs, but she is bored out of her mind for much of the time there, that is until a young writer is invited in by her boss and an immediate attraction makes itself plain between them. He is Peter Morrissey (Bruce Robinson), and has sold a few short stories with a view to writing a novel and really making his name, but he will find himself distracted by his new love for Ann...

Our director and writer here was Barney Platts-Mills, who had at the time recently made Bronco Bullfrog, a youth picture with a gritty, realistic slant. This time he moved forward in age to a couple who were ready to settle down, but found that their environment and the interference of those around them would prove an impediment to their lasting happiness; it's one of those movies where you see the first couple of scenes and think, no, this is not going to end well, even though that is simply the setting up of the characters. For a start, Ann's father (Robert Brown) is not entirely convinced that this arrival in his daughter's life is all she thinks he is.

The trouble being that that's precisely what he is and given the chance they could have been quite content together. The underlying mood here is of futility, as if the modern world in general was conspiring against Peter and Ann to ensure that nowhere would there be a place for them to truly settle, and in its own way it was a bleak little drama. Nothing earth-shattering occurs, there were no trumpeting scenes of conflict or violence really, although there were arguments, there was just the feeling that there was no way that love could survive when there were so many other pressing concerns in the life as it was lived now.

Or then, as it were, because when there was such adherence to making this as true to authentic experience as possible, films like these cannot help but turn into time capsules, in this case of the very early seventies, where references to the social upheavals of the previous decade are giving way to a morning after hangover that says, that's all very well, but what are you going to do now? As the leads, Penhaligon and Robinson were all too convincing, with her growing out of her sullen teenage years and into a more stressed take on things, unable to escape from under the thumb of daddy, and he encapsulating the young man for whom responsibilities tend to crush his dreams.

Robinson of course went on to direct a film far more acclaimed than this one, Withnail and I, but you can see a debt to Private Road in that, especially the way that the couple head off for a stretch to the countryside; they don't go on holiday by mistake exactly, but they do find the supposed idyll they hoped for lacking when you have to grow or hunt your own food in the middle of nowhere. They return after a fashion and have to knuckle down with Peter getting a job he suffers nobly with an advertising agency, while Ann becomes pregnant, not something we're sure the relationship can really bear. Being a bit of a ramble, this doesn't so much build to a climax as it stops when it feels there's no more story to tell and we have the idea, but as a slice of middle class life it made a change from the more working class centred drama that these types would more normally populate. Music by George Fenton, Michael Feast (who appears as the druggy friend) and David Dundas.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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