Director: DAVID LEAN

U.K. • 1954 • BLACK AND WHITE • 107 MIN

In this superbly crafted adaptation of Harold Brighouse’s play, which the British Academy voted the best British film of 1954, director David Lean uproariously turns the tables on himself, poking fun at themes he has treated seriously elsewhere, notably the cruelty of Victorian society and the yearnings of a thwarted yet determined heroine.
Charles Laughton is in splendidly uninhibited form as the tyrannical father of a Lancashire family who is outmanoeuvred in his own home: the scene where he is drunkenly mesmerised by the moon’s reflection in a gleaming Mancunian puddle is probably Lean’s finest comedy set-piece. Equally splendid is Brenda de Banzie as his daughter Maggie, who chooses to marry the hapless cobbler Will Mossop (John Mills) as her route out of an oppressive domestic situation and her means to achieve her own ambitions. ‘I don’t know what came over me,’ says Will after standing up at last to Maggie’s father, to which Maggie retorts: ‘I came over you.’—Neil Sinyard.


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