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Amy and Jim Preston have been married for twenty years but, in her husband's eyes, she has become sloppy both about the house and herself. Jim has no problems with falling in love with Georgie Harlow, a fellow-office worker who is pretty and young...and willing. Jim finally asks Amy for a divorce so he can marry Georgie, and Amy pleads for him to stay but he walks out. He soon realizes that he can't go through with the desertion of Amy and their teen-age son, Brian, and returns home. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Woman in a Dressing Gown is directed by J. Lee Thompson and written by Ted Willis. It stars Yvonne Mitchell, Anthony Quayle and Sylvia Syms, music is by Louis Levy and cinematography by Gilbert Taylor.
It's something of an inauspicious title, a title hardly conducive to making this piece of film leap out at you, to shout that it's essential British cinema. How wonderful to find that not only is it a title completely befitting the material being played out, but that it is actually essential British cinema.
It's little known and very under seen, in fact myself was only introduced to it by a Canadian friend! The story centers on a London family of three, husband is away earning the corn at the office, teenage son is just starting out in life after school, and mother? She's on housewife auto-pilot, but disorganised with it. Her auto- pilot world is shaken to the core when it is revealed that husband is having an affair with his personal secretary, a smart and beautiful younger sort who is demanding that husband divorces wifey or it's all off...
It sounds very kitchen sink, but actually it's not, it's a very smartly written picture giving credence to mental illness, to the shattering blows of infidelity, of a crumbling family dynamic, a family that in truth is homespun. Ordinary? Yes, but safe as the red brick built poky flat they dwell in. We are not asked to take sides here, to chastise or judge, Thompson and his superb cast merely ask us to delve into their world, to understand it, the psychological humdrum of 50s Britain, the starkness of marriage does mean growing old together, but that nobody ever said it was going to be easy.
Looking at it now it can be viewed as a very important film in the trajectory of British cinema, Mitchell's character is the fulcrum, making the film a must see as regards the evolution of how women have been represented in Brit cinema through the years. Thompson, better known for tough macho fuelled movies on his CV, does a wonderful job in letting us feel the anguish and emotional turbulence. Hazy camera shots couple up with stark framing of the objects in the cramped flat, all marrying up to the fractured nature of Amy & Jim's marriage. There's even humour to be found, very much so, with Louis Levy's musical cue accompaniments deftly shifting from seething passions to Ealing like comedy as the home life of Amy is scattergun in execution.
Kitchen sink, social realist, proto realist and etc? No! This has no pigeon hole to be placed in, it's just terrific film making, from the writing, the performances, the direction and its worth to anyone interested in classic British cinema, this demands to be sought out. And for the record, the last 20 minutes of film will move and invigorate the coldest of hearts. 9/10
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