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Filmed nine years after the last of the authentic kitchen sink films ('This Sporting Life' and 'Billy Liar'), 'The Ragman's Daughter' seems to me to be director Harold Becker's wistful homage to the original genre. The period kitchen sink films were shot in black & white, and here Becker shot in Technicolor, though the cinematography here is quite good, and yet in its frequent atmospheric moments supportive of my sense that this film is an homage by an American director who had earlier been smitten with the early crop of kitchen sink and "angry young man" pictures.
'The Ragman's Daughter' was the first feature film for all of its acting and crew principals, including Becker. Perhaps their having been collectively fond of and in awe of the original kitchen sink films lends this latter-day hearkening-back to the genre a haunting subtext or mystique that's quite appealing.
The screenwriter is Alan Sillitoe - from whose novels the period kitchen sink films 'Saturday Night And Sunday Morning' and 'The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner' were adapted - whose native Nottingham is the location for 'The Ragman's Daughter,' and the setting is captured in frame here with charm and warmth bordering on the fondly nostalgic which that Midlands industrial city perhaps never really afforded its working class inhabitants; there's little of the chill one catches from the early, period, black & white kitchen sinkers. Also, the conflict here isn't played out, as it is classically in the originals of the genre, among working class or even between working class and establishment characters; instead 'The Ragman's Daughter's' conflict is between the protagonist couple's working class male lead, Tony (Simon Rouse) and its second generation nouveau riche, but entrée-lacking, female lead, Doris (Victoria Tennant).
With captivating, absorbing inter-cutting Becker gave, in the form of the older male protagonist recalling the story of his lost youth, the film much of its haunting, "nature of regret" appeal. The pacing is quite slow, which suits the plot and characters and it contributes considerable gravitas to the storytelling's empathic profundity.
While not a opus major, 'The Ragman's Daughter' works its soft magic on several levels, not the least of which is nowadays its time capsule value - but I shan't spoil it for anyone by parsing the other levels here: see it for yourself and let this little gem's gleam catch and please your eye, mind, and heart.
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