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aka - Wednesday's Child
United Kingdom 1972
Directed by
Ken Loach
108 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Family Life

Ken Loach and his producer Tony Garnett had a surprise hit with their social realist portrait of a young working class Yorkshire lad in Kes (1969). It was a strong example of British committed cinema but mild stuff compared to this excoriating account of institutionalized socialization.

Family Life is adapted by David Mercer from his television play “In Two Minds” and tells the story of a confused 19-year-old girl, Janice Baildon (Sandy Ratcliff), who lives at home with her parents, hard-working authoritarian father (Bill Dean) and old-fashioned and manipulative mother (Grace Cave). As Janice becomes increasingly erratic and rebellious and finally pregnant, her parents force her to get an abortion and then when she reacts badly to this, turn to the public health system for a way out. Placed in a public mental institution Janice initially receives some help from a Langian psychologist, Dr. Donaldson (Michael Riddall), but he is removed by the hospital board and she is then treated with drugs and electric-shock therapy which reduce her to zomboid lifelessness

Loach uses a semi-documentary approach to mount a scathing attack on the bigotry of moral righteousness and the scandalous outdatedness of Britain's mental health system. The cast are extraordinarily convincing and although Loach unnecessarily pleads his case through the mouthpiece of Janice’s boyfriend Tim, (Malcolm Tierney) bar this brief error of judgement, Family Life is a stunning film that belongs with One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Frances (1982) as powerful films that mount passionate attacks on the brutalizing tendencies of “normal” society.

DVD Extras: Audio Commentary by Dr. Brian McFarlane, Monash University.

Available from: Madman




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