By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: He will have her.
This is a moody drama detailing the story of a 15 year old boy named Mike (John Moulder-Brown) who goes to work at a public bath in London. There he meets an alluring red-headed woman named Sue (Jane Asher). She begins flirting with him, which causes him to become infatuated with her. He starts following her around and even tries to scare off her two boyfriends as she is seeing both a man her own age as well as an older, married one. Sue, who seems to enjoy manipulating all the men in her life, treats it all like it’s a silly game that ultimately ends with tragic results.
One of the things that really helps this film stand-out is the believability of the Mike character. It was fascinating seeing all the different sides to his personality and I felt each one rang true for a boy his age. There are times when he seems streetwise and even savvy and then there are other moments when he is immature, irresponsible, and emotionally out-of-control. Although his obsession with Sue borders on being frightening I did like how he comes up with clever ways to help her like the ingenious way he finds her diamond that fell from her ring and into the snow. I also liked how he becomes shocked at seeing a semi-nude poster of Sue outside a club, as she works as a stripper part-time, and how he steals it away in order to ‘protect her honor’.
Sue on the other hand seems almost all bad with very little good traits, but still equally believable. She is mean and catty with everyone, abuses animals, and comes up emotionally hollow at every turn. However, I could see how a young man of his age could become trapped by her seductive ways and perceived ‘maturity’, which makes the obsession itself as intriguing as their personalities.
Acclaimed writer/director Jerzy Skolimowski seems very much in control here and what buttons to press and when to do it. I liked the color schemes especially his use of the color red. Having Cat Stevens do the music score gives the soundtrack and nice distinction. I also liked how he foreshadows the film’s final shot several times during the movie.
I did end up having a few qualms with the film. I wanted Mike’s initial interactions with Sue to be a little more extended than just the brief flirting that is shown. The film takes place in buildings that are all old, rundown, and murky, which in some ways is good because it helps reflect the murky personalities of the characters. Yet I wasn’t sure if this was all intentional or just the result of working on a low budget. I would have liked a few scenes done against a more appealing background just to allow for more visual variety.
The ending, especially the final shot, is very provocative and perverse. It reminded me in a way of Nicholas Roeg’s excellent film Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980). Everything gets played out in such an odd way that it keeps you guessing until the final second as to what happens, which ends up staying with you long after the film is over.
Diana Dors, who was a popular British actress during the 50’s and 60’s and even considered a sex symbol for a time, gets a great cameo bit here that has to be seen to really be appreciated. She plays a sexually frustrated middle-aged woman who rents a room at the public bath and then tricks Mike into coming into the room with her. She grabs his hair and shakes his head while describing a sexual fantasy that she has going on in her head. When she is done she throws him back to the floor and says “You can go now, I don’t need you anymore.”
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: September 1, 1970
Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes
Rated R (Sexual Situations, Adult Theme, Brief Nudity)
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Import)