The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Richardson, 1962)

Anyone who follows this blog with any regularity knows that I spent a long time using the western as my go-to genre. Starting today, I’m adding another genre to my repertoire – British Misery Cinema. After reading an article in the December edition of Film Comment magazine on the genre, I realized that many films that I have a great respect for fall into this category. They’re often difficult to watch due to their honest depiction of human suffering, but I find them important because of that honesty.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Tony Richardson, 1962)

To start, I re-visited a film I saw years ago that I didn’t even realize fell into this category until reading the article. In this ‘kitchen sink’ drama (this term refers to the working-class, domestic life setting often used in the 50s and 60s for the ‘misery’ movement), Richardson brings to life a sympathetic young protagonist who finds himself in a boy’s reformatory. After showcasing his ability of long distance running, he is allowed to leave the school grounds for training runs. It’s here where the film finds its footing. These gorgeously shot scenes are weaved in and out of memories and reminiscences – thoughts of flirtatious teenage romance, mischievous undertakings with friends, and a hard family life. Anyone who has ever done solo training runs knows how the mind wanders, and Richardson illustrates this perfectly. It’s a beautifully accurate film in regards to self-reflection and teenage life, and even as a distance runner, these aspects were far more involving than the film’s final race or the ‘fight the power’ message. I would have been fine with a film completely focused on actual isolation and the contemplative yearning it creates.  8.75/10


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