The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Tony Richardson

The British liked to think they were ahead of the game with their "angry young man” movies but this little number from 1962 proved they had a lot to learn in the international art film sweepstakes. Tom Courtenay gave an iconic performance as Colin Smith, the disaffected working-class youth who gets sent to a borstal for robbery and finds himself under the tutelage of its patronising "reformatory governor” (Michael Redgrave). When Colin shows a talent for cross-country running, the governor fingers him to beat a public school at their annual tournament, meaning Colin has to decide between running for the man and taking a fall for his principles. The filmmakers would dearly like you to believe that they’re rooting for the little guy and throwing down for existential ennui but they’re rank amateurs all the way. Although they try to arouse sympathy through flashbacks that show our hero’s alienated blue-collar existence, it’s clear that director Tony Richardson might just as well be making a movie about Martians. Not a single line of dialogue rings true and not a single situation seems plausible; it’s all declamatory thesis statements and gambolling youths on the beach. The flashback sequences seem the most heavily faked, with lots of phoney parent/child squabbling and a really horrible scene where Colin and a friend mock a stuffy television announcer to flaunt their higher consciousness. Though there’s a certain grungy charm to its famous "kitchen sink” aesthetic, there’s no denying that the film is just as exploitive and condescending as the governor who we’re meant to despise. It’s supposed to be one of the best of the period, which should give you an idea of what the others are like. (Warner)