A juvenile offender (Sir Tom Courtenay) at a tough reform school impresses its Governor (Sir Michael Redgrave) with his running ability and is encouraged to compete in an upcoming race, but faces ridicule from his peers.
Despite success on the field, a rising rugby star senses the emerging emptiness of his life as his inner angst begins to materialize through aggression and brutality, so he attempts to woo his landlady in hopes of finding reason to live.
Having renounced her ignominious past, a former streetwalker reunites with her son. However, an extortion scheme endangers her aspirations for a decent bourgeois life. Can she protect him from the same snares that wounded her youth?
Pier Paolo Pasolini
A rebellious youth (Sir Tom Courtenay), sentenced to a boy's reformatory for robbing a bakery, rises through the ranks of the institution through his prowess as a long distance runner. During his solitary runs, reveries of his life and times before his incarceration lead him to re-evaluate his privileged status as the Governor's (Sir Michael Redgrave's) prize runner.
There is a running scene in which the camera catches both the rising sun and the setting moon. Director of Photography Walter Lassally recalled a critic writing of this scene: "'What consultation of ephemerides there must have been to capture that precious moment'...which only goes to show that critics don't know a great deal about how movies are made, because you can't possibly plan a thing like that. It would take forever, and fall well outside your schedule." The shot was actually one of those happy accidents that sometimes happen in filmmaking. Two cameras were set up, one with a wide angle lens and one with a long focus. It was pure luck that the two celestial bodies were caught. See more »
Early in the movie, when the new boys are in the van on the way to the borstal, they are shown in handcuffs and chains; when they emerge from the van, the restraints are gone. However, one of their guards is heard referring to removing their restraints after they pass through the outer gate. See more »
Running was always a big thing in our family, specially running away from the police. It's hard to understand. All I know is that you've got to run, running without knowing why, through fields and woods. And the winning post's no end, even though the barmy crowds might be cheering themselves daft. That's what the loneliness of a long distance runner feels like.
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Rambling thoughts: A very good movie, really capturing the sense of futility of lower class British existence. The desolate beauty of gray, cold and damp England comes through in wonderful ranges of color; despite being a black and white film, there is a huge variety of tone in the photography. You can almost smell the wet leaves of the forests and hills, and feel the cold of the morning air as you follow the runners on their daily jogs. England's rich heritage of distance running makes it an apt subject. Distance running, which I do enjoy myself, is primarily a solitary activity, designed for bona-fide introverts, "angry young men", obsessive individuals who do not mind pain, and in some cases, may actually enjoy it. England, with its crummy weather, economy, history and hugely varied terrain, is particularly well-suited to the sport. Courtenay is a treasure; we are so fortunate to still have him around. It is a wonder to gaze upon his youthful gauntness, and then to see how his appearance has evolved over the years. Really sharp viewers will be able to spot a very young Inspector Morse, John Thaw, as one of the young inmates.
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