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


Lucía and Jun-Dai at home on 9 February 2013.

This is definitely one of the great film titles of all time (though, like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I suppose the credit really goes to the story it’s based on). I actually rented it almost solely because of the title. I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out to be a very interesting film. Plenty of postwar, lower class British disaffection and alienation. Tom Courtenay seems like he was born to play the role. He has a peculiar physical presence with a slightly strange face and an awkward way of moving about that makes him seem like a teenager that woke up one morning a foot taller than the day before. His demeanour is at times opaque and inscrutable but at other times quite easy to sympathise with.

Unlike most rebellious youth films, Colin is not really violent. t’s not so much that he abhors it, but more that his rebelliousness is not violent in nature. It seems like Colin isn’t really rebelling at anything specifically. He’s not particularly uncooperative or even especially self-destructive (aside from a couple of obvious missteps). It’s more that he somehow can’t quite stomach doing whatever it is he is supposed to do, whether it’s working for his family, rebelling against the governor, cooperating with the governor, etc. When faced with a final opportunity to win the race and bring victory to his school, Colin simply stops in his tracks, replaying everyone’s expectations of him in rapid montage. Only in almost succeeding but giving up at the last moment can he possibly succeed in disappointing everyone at once.

I liked the cinematography. I liked the parallel between the children banging their utensils on the table early in the film and the youths/prisoners revolting in the mess hall.

I was a bit mystified about how the police determined that Colin and Mike were responsible for the bakery robbery. Also, it struck me that there were better ways to dispose of a tin box than to bury it in a house plant.

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