The second film on the BFI Southbank double-bill of TV dramas directed by Jack Gold, this is a charming tale of Lancashire lad Henry (John Baron, last seen in a bit part in ‘When The Boat Comes In’) and his growing friendship over a walk home by the canal with Jamaican girl Faith (Hilary Baker, who seemed to appear only once more on screen, in ‘Short Cuts’ in 1976).
What it catches perfectly is the more innocent days where children could walk through fields and do simple things like toss stones in streams, look at the view, jump across streams and where young lads go skinny dipping. It’s a time I remember well.
It is a nostalgic piece in which a world we have lost is closely depicted, and in its young and untested cast it has a pair of performances which show a growing friendship.
In 1969 attitudes to immigrants from the Caribbean (Faith’s father is a bus driver) were not entirely positive, which makes the acceptance of the girl by Henry, and of Henry by her parents, all the more surprising, but refreshing. (Incidentally Henry’s home has central heating which, in a 1960s Lancashire, must have been unusual indeed!).
This aside, it is a touching and well performed tale, and the location work gives the sense of an industrial and natural landscape (the rocks on which Henry and Faith first sit at the top of the hill are ‘chemical waste’ he informs her in a matter-of-fact tone) which has long gone.
There’s a running joke around a 9lb piece of cheese Henry buys from a shop shortly after the two leave school (having lived above a butcher’s shop for years, his family cannot abide meat), and around the smells of the landscape (cheese and molasses).
Aside from Faith and Henry, we meet both sets of parents – Faith’s loving couple who call each other ‘lover’ and ‘queenie’, she does evening classes and revises for her O levels while cooking fried herring for tea’; Henry’s middle-aged pair who still enjoy a bit of loving flirtation which bothers their maturing son.
Julia Jones, who plays Henry’s mother Ada, wrote this perceptive and interesting play, which is quiet, gentle, and very successful. Notably Faith is not destined to be a housewife but dreams of being a pilot; she’s very much her own woman, declining to be Henry’s ‘girl’ but instead offering to be his ‘friend’.