Thursday, 19 January 2017

Up the Junction (1968)

Polly (Suzy Kendall) is a young upperclass woman who moves from Chelsea to the working class  suburb of Battersea. She takes a job at a factory and befriends two of the girls there, sisters, Sylvie (Maureen Lipman) and Rube (Adrienne Posta). She also falls in love with Peter (Dennis Waterman). However whilst Polly disdains her wealthy heritage, Peter dreams of being rich.

Up the Junction was based on a collection of short stories by Nell Dunn and in 1965 was made into a 'Wednesday Play' by Ken Loach. Loach's television version caused great controversy at the time for its frank portrayal of abortions, sex and the lives of the working class. It was filmed in a documentary style and was episodic in nature.
Directed by Peter Collinson (The Italian Job) and with a soundtrack by Manfred Mann, the 1968 film followed a similar story line but failed to make such an impact as it predecessor. Still the film dealt with abortion and the often violent, gritty nature of the people who lived in Battersea. The films main subject however is class. Polly and Peter ultimately fail to understand each other because they both want what the other has. Polly's almost naive desire to live a 'normal' life is impossible for Peter to grasp. He has grown up with nothing and envies her wealth. Polly looks upon life in Battersea through rose tinted glasses, even after witnessing violence against her friends, abortion, death and the eventually imprisonment of Peter.

Despite it's gritty subject matter, Up the Junction, has some surprisingly tender moments, particularly between Polly and Peter. Even today Polly's desire for freedom away from the constrains of money is understandable. Kendall and Waterman give great performances. Kendall reminiscent of Julie Christie, she presents Polly as a gentle, caring, dreamer, whilst Waterman is frustrated and desperate to escape his Battersea life. It's fascinating to watch how their respective dreams and desires remain opposite to each other despite their love. Lipman and Posta also give good performances as the brassy sisters, Sylvie more sensitive than Rube, but both out to have a good time whatever the cost.
The film is a time capsule of an era about to end and it is a bittersweet portrayal of how not everyone was able to achieve their dreams despite promises of a better future.