Up-and-coming short story writer Peter (Bruce Robinson) meets pretty young secretary Ann (Susan Penhaligon) at the publishing house. Shunning her rather old-fashioned parents, Ann begins an intense love affair with Peter and the two seem to spend all their time together. Peter's laid back lifestyle and bohemian friends seems to appeal to Ann, who has been raised in mainly middle-class surroundings. The two head off to the country where they seem to grow bored of each other, and Ann gets pregnant. Peter doesn't really care about the novel he's been told to write but is forced to get a steady job to support the unborn child.
If my description doesn't exactly grip you with it's exciting synopsis, I don't blame you. Private Road is really as laid back as its young characters. It's the kind of film which will disappoint if you're expecting a straight-forward beginning, middle and end - but, if you allow what plays out just to wash over you, then it's profoundly moving, sweet, and funny. I don't usually take to bohemian types, but Bruce Robinson's (writer of Withnail & I and The Killing Fields) natural charm, and the lack of self-awareness that plagues the Facebook generation warmed me to the characters.
One film that Private Road really brought to mind was Harold And Maude. Although it's not as blatantly comic or quite as dark, the film does have a subtle comic undertone that plays out throughout, usually in the conversations between Peter and his friend Stephen (played by the brilliant Michael Feast). It almost has a feel of Withnail & I (without being quite as clever). It also has a serious note when Stephen becomes a heroin addict, played with an amazing realism by Feast. The naturalistic wordplay and the nice soundtrack add up to make this the only BFI Flipside release that I've really enjoyed. Recommended!
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