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Taste Of Honey, AUK 1961
Directed by Tony Richardson
Running time 96 minutes
A classic of British "Kitchen Sink" realism, A Taste Of Honey, a coming-of-age story about a schoolgirl from Salford, Manchester based on Shelagh Delaney's heartfelt play is beautifully realized by the fine lead performances in Tony Richardson’s effective screen adaptation..
A19-year-old Rita Tushingham, making her screen debut, plays Jo, the life-loving teenager saddled with a brassy mother (Dora Bryan) who becomes pregnant by a black seaman (Paul Danquah). Her mother takes off with a “fancy man” (Robert Stephens) and Jo strikes up a friendship with a “queer” art student (the incomparable Murray Melvin who had played the part in the stage production) and together the outsiders set up home. That is really all there is to the plot but the simplicity and honesty of portraiture is what the film is about and it succeeds, sentimental as it might be at times, the realist’s programmatic aim being to show the conditions of the working class yet also to inspire it with hope of a better future.
Modern British realist film-making of the Loach-Leigh school tends to be far grimmer if equally programmatic and A Taste Of Honey now feels a little too romanticized. Nevertheless the film unquestionably stands as a portrait of a time and place: a struggling post-war industrial Britain about to undergo a major social upheaval (one can imagine a young Lennon and McCartney playing along similar Liverpool canals) and superbly captured by Walter Lassally’s documentary-like black-and-white photography.