John Schlesinger (director)
110 min (length)
16 March 2020 (released)
24 March 2020
Watching this multi award-winning film from 1971 now, one might be surprised that although SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY was deemed rather controversial upon its initial release it seems rather a case of much ado about very little.
Things have changed considerably since that time: who then would have conceived that one day we would have gay marriages while at the time the film was made, being gay in the UK had not actually been legal for that long. With that in mind it could be said that this was a bold and courageous venture by its gay director. That, however, hardly precludes the movie from being a pretty lackluster affair. That said, none of the characters are unpleasant - in fact they are all rather nice and civilized people, which does not really help from a cinematic viewpoint. Ah, yes... the plot:
We’re talking about a love triangle which is nowhere as complex and complicated as the initial publicity would suggest. In a nutshell, Alex Greville (Glenda Jackson), a 30-something frustrated and recently divorced woman who works at a large employment agency and Daniel Hirsh (Peter Finch), a successful Jewish doctor who happens to be gay, are sharing the same bi-sexual lover. The young man in question is Bob Elkin (Murray Head), himself a talented young artist and free spirit. This triangle does not appear to be a major problem as both Alex and Daniel are aware that Bob is alternating between them and, in fact, both are friends of the same, highly unconventional middle class family, the Hodsons. The Hodsons are parents to a generous number of small children (one of their little boys smokes pot!), a toucan and – get ready for this - a Capuchin monkey! The three lovers even alternate Sunday lunch with this eccentric family. As already mentioned, there isn’t all that much happening except Alex, who seems to grow increasingly insecure about Bob seeing Daniel, decides to take a middle-age lover, George Harding (Tony Britton), one of her clients who has been made redundant. He's also quite a nice and extremely polite chap. When Bob unexpectedly drops in on Alex, almost catching them in bed together, he seems unfazed to find George Harding there. Mind you, it would be pretty hypocritical if he did. Alex, for a few seconds at least, seems almost triumphant that she now has a second lover as well, and not just Bob who of course also sees Daniel.
The only two scenes in the film which offer a bit of action and excitement (albeit for all the wrong reasons) is when Alex and Bob, who are baby-sitting for the Hodsons, are taking the entire brood for a walk in Greenwich when one of the wayward children runs amok with the family dog in tow, causing the dog to get knocked down by a fast approaching truck. In the second scene, while driving around Piccadilly Circus, Daniel is rudely approached by his former lover, a wastrel and Heroin-addict played by actor Jon Finch (delivering a pretty unconvincing Scots accent) who of course was a star the following year thanks to his performance as Macbeth in Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy. The film ends with Bob accepting a lucrative job in New York opening his own gallery, and Daniel Hirsh, after having attended a Bar Mitzvah celebration where a well-meaning friend, unaware of Daniel’s sexual orientation, tries to play matchmaker, addresses us viewers directly with an unconventional speech.
Actually, allow me to correct myself: the most exciting moment arrived when director Schlesinger and his actors including Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson as well as screenwriter Penelope Gilliatt and editor Richard Marden all won BAFTAS (yet no one was really stretched here).
Those not knowing they had an open mind - patronizing as that sounds - can 'learn' something from this well-intentioned film. If one man snogging another on the cinema screen was, back then, 'pushing the envelope' one is nearly lost for words. But have we progressed that much really since then?
Special Features on this BFI release include the supernatural fantasy ‘The Starfish’ made by John Schlesinger and Alan Cooke in 1950, interviews, commentary and many more exciting features.