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A young British clerk in a gloomy North Country undertaker's office, Billy is bombarded daily by the propaganda of the media that all things are for the asking. This transparently false doctrine, coupled with the humdrum job and his wild imagination, leads him on frequent flights to "Ambrosia," a mythical kingdom where he is crowned king, general, lover or any idealized hero the real situation of the moment makes him desire. His vacillating commitment and post-adolescent immaturity have created situations which make Ambrosia all the more attractive. He's succeeded in becoming engaged to two different girls, simultaneously, while in love with a third, Liz. He's in hot water with his employer, having spent a rather large sum of postage money on his personal frivolities. And last, but not least, his dream of becoming a highly-paid, famous scriptwriter in London seems doomed to failure. The only person in his life capable of bringing him down to earth is Liz, and she's having a difficult ... Written by
What makes this little black and white film so absorbing? As I was watching it on late-night TV, I found myself on the edge of my seat, gripping the arms of my chair, trying not to yell at the main character, Billy Fisher, near the end of the film. How absorbed can you be?
The dialogue, the acting, and the storyline was so realistic and natural that I had completely forgotten that I was watching a film. Years later on the next viewing I had thought it wouldn't suck me in again, especially since I knew the ending, but I was wrong. In fact I was able to appreciate it all the more on the second viewing.
Tom Courtenay plays Billy Fisher, who is an immature, irresponsible young man living in a Walter Mitty-ish fantasy world, and invents implausible stories to attempt to hide his escapades, but his lies keep backfiring on him.
His life is rapidly falling apart. He is supposed to mail out calendars from his employers to their clients, but he doesn't mail them, and keeps the postage money. He even manages to con two girls into becoming engaged to him, and that explodes into a catfight over him when they find out. His grandmother is dying, his father is continually angry at him, and everything he does just makes matters worse.
Fortunately, he meets Liz, (played by Julie Christie, who is the best thing in this great movie). She is sweet, beautiful, and understands him completely because of her own need to escape, which she does by travelling around the country.
He has the opportunity to get away from all the trouble he's in and go to London, and make a fresh start with Liz who is so perfect for him. But can he change? Can he summon the courage to break free of the messy but secure life he knows and face the unknown? Will he recognise that Liz is the best thing that could ever happen to him?
I'm not going to tell you, because that would spoil the film, but, whichever way he decides, any film that has you on the edge of your seat, yelling "Go with her! Don't miss this opportunity! Go! Go!" you know it's a truly wonderful and realistic film!
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