Up the Junction

Review from New York Times

Screen: Suzy Kendall Seeks the Sweet Life in a Candy Factory:' Up the Junction' Treats Blue-Collar Britain New Movies Paired at Neighborhood Houses

Published: March 14, 1968

"UP THE JUNCTION," which opened yesterday at the New Embassy and the 68th Street Playhouse, is the latest in the series of British working-class color films that seem to come from British directors with the regularity of episodes from "Our Gal Sunday," and it is by far the best of them. A lot of things are wrong with it, but a lot is going for it, too.
It stars Suzy Kendall (of "The Penthouse" and "To Sir With Love") fighting a part that requires her to be on screen nearly all the time and that is almost impossible to play. She portrays, a rich young woman, who, tired of what she considers the hypocrisy of upper-class life in Chelsea, decides to find happiness among the genuine, lovable poor who live "up the junction" in Battersea.

Such a person—who insists on wading into the lives of other people and finding their deep social problems negligible or picturesque—is either a ninny (such as the daughter in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner") or a hard lady journalist. In either case, she has to be so insensitive that it is hard to make anyone care about her.

Miss Kendall opts for the journalist, which makes for an interesting performance of a part that has been suppressed in the script. That is, "Up the Junction" is based on a series of articles in The New Statesman by Nell Dunn (who also wrote the screenplay for "Poor Cow"). In the articles, Miss Dunn described her experiences in moving to the neighborhood of Clapham Junction, working in a candy-packing factory there, and observing the people. In the movie, there is no indication that Miss Kendall writes. But for a good part of the film she plays it that way—quite shallow and hard—not so much talking to people as lurking around interviewing them, with a certain mixture of warmth, condescension and reserve.

When she falls in love, she has to lapse gradually into the ninny to behave as insufferably as the script requires her to. She keeps expressing her delight with everything squalid and poor. And when her young man reveals—in one of those instances of someone's most personal secret having been a matter of public knowledge from the beginning of time—that everyone always knew she was not really working-class, the characterization falls completely apart Miss Kendall simply looks too intelligent and even too old (she is 25) for the giddy young grotesque of tactlessness she then becomes. But it is a rare instance of a very talented actress trying to rescue a part.

There is a really beautiful piece of characterization by Dennis Waterman — whose first adult movie role this is—as the furniture-truck driver and leading man. He plays one of those solid, gentle young people, infinitely more sensitive and perceptive than they look, who are always being hurt by people who ought to know better. It is rare to find a portrayal of a gentle young man without any air of effeminacy or saintliness. Dennis Waterman does the whole difficult thing exactly right.

The supporting roles in this movie are as strong as they were in "To Sir With Love," and several members of the cast—including Adrienne Posta were in the earlier film. It seems that in British movies of this genre one always has either a birth or an abortion, and Miss Posta—in a part that consists mainly of being a rather leaden ball of fluff, has the abortion scene. Maureen Lipman, plays Miss Posta's sister—a wise, mischievous young woman, who, but for her lack of education, would probably have become a considerably less charming intellectual. Michael Gothard plays a boy next door, who dies, twitching, in a motorcycle wreck. Other minor characters, including some real Battersea residents in a pub, are convincing, too.

The movie was directed by Peter Collinson, who last directed "The Penthouse"—without any of the earlier film's brutality. There are well-shot scenes of Batter-sea and of the candy factory. Some of the ladies dialogue at work is rather broad and forced, but it is rare to find working people characterized in terms of the place they work and the work they do. The music, by Mannfred Mann, consists of complete soft-rock songs done while some other bit of business are going on.

UP THE JUNCTION, screenplay by Roger Smith, based on articles by Nell Dunn; Directed by Peter Collinson

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