PRIVATE ROAD, written and directed by Barney Platts-Mills, is as I suspected, better than it at first seems. It's a month or two since I first saw it, but certain images recur...are quietly haunting. Though some obvious things date it (mostly perhaps the music) in other ways despite its strong sense of period, it seems strangely timeless. That could be because aspects of it are, like the "I see a boy running barefoot over fields..." story from the brilliant NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947), universal, and if well enough told (and the naivety/naturalness of some of the acting, or perhaps presentation, here, adds to this) can echo with everyone's memories, emotionally if not literally.
At first PRIVATE ROAD seems pleasant but inconsequential when contrasted to so many other more dramatic stories, but it's this very lack of overstatedness that gives it the truth beyond its surface. As always, this truth in films is made up of so much more than what the characters do or say, or what the story does or says. It's as much in the landscapes and rooms and in all the moments inbetween - and to really work must stimulate our own memories and dreams, past, present and future. All of which is precisely what most films, indeed most art, so signally fails to do.
Susan Penhaligon, despite the obvious shortcomings of her character remains largely sympathetic, but it's Bruce Robinson's weak but very appealing, good naturedness, that holds the film together. It is interesting to see the obvious parallels with WITHNAIL & I - a film that despite its deliberate overstatedness also succeeds in carrying a strong, though to my mind ultimately melancholic and self-protectedly cynical, charge.
The extras on this dvd are ST.CHRISTOPHER - a wonderfully vivid documentary and THE LAST CHAPTER, a silly but enjoyable short film with Denholm Elliot and Susan Penhaligon again - you can't have too much of Susan Penhaligon! There's a very nice booklet as well. Highly recommended!