John Schlesinger may not be a director who gets his due as much as he once did. His work up to The Falcon and the Snowman (his last real solid piece of work) pushed many of the taboos of the ’60s and ’70s. He started making films during the “golden age”of kitchen sink dramas in early ’60s but is best known for his later (and better) American films such as Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man. A Kind of Loving was his debut feature after much work in television and would end up winning the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival somehow over Salvatore Giuliano.
A King of Loving is a classic example of what would be the British kitchen sink dramas of the early ’60s. As usual with the genre, the protagonist is the angry young man Vic Brown (Alan Bates) who is working as a draughtsman up in gloomy Manchester and is a bit of a lad deep down. He screws the typist played by Ingrid Rothwell (June Ritchie) and naturally given it’s the early ’60s she gets preggers. She totally falls for him but he is slightly more wary of the relationship but he tries to do the good thing and marries her. They move in with her horrible mother and their relationship starts to fall apart.
The film’s major issue is both main characters are deeply unsympathetic to the core, Vic is a whiny misogynistic bellend and Ingrid is portrayed as a dumb woman who is more obsessed with the next episode of “Call Dr. Martin” than salvaging their relationship. Ingrid is the kind of woman who the sexual revolution wasn’t made for, she still answers to her mother and does whatever Vic wants except have sex with him. Her character maybe would have been interesting in a few years but 1962 in Britain might as well have been 1952 in what was acceptable in society. However Alan Bates is obviously a fine actor and carries the film despite the poor characterization.
However Schlesinger tries his best to make us care about the characters despite the shoddy material. It’s based on a novel by the forgotten Yorkshire author Stan Barstow. This film and I would assume the novel doesn’t have the lasting impact the novel or film of Billy Liar does which in turn would be Schlesinger’s next film. However it’s a worthwhile insight into how backwards Britain was in the early ’60s even though the later ’60s were a much more repressive era in Britain than you may be led to believe.
The film has undergone a new restoration and looks as good as these kind of films can possibly look. The broadcaster Stuart Maconie is interviewed and there is a newly made featurette about the film and it’s place in the kitchen sink dramas of the time. The more interesting features however are the audio highlights from a talk by John Schlesinger at NFT in 1988 touching on his early work and his early documentary Terminus.