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4.4 out of 5 stars53
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 22 October 2009
High time this wonderful play was available on DVD, twenty-three years after it was first shown on British television. The atmosphere of family holidays in the 1950s and 60s is marvellously evoked (it was filmed on location at Southwold) and the cast is brilliant, particularly Joan Sanderson as the dragon-like but kindly seaside landlady and John Nettleton as the hero's father. Anyone over 50 will have been here many times! Often poignant, often very funny, and always enjoyable, and from a time when holidays were very different from the present need to fly abroad or indulge in a great deal of extravagance, this is hugely recommendable.
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on 7 March 2012
This beautifully written and acted play by Michael Palin is one of the best modern TV dramas I have seen. A nostalgic coming-of-age piece, it captures the frustrations, awkwardness and ambitions of adolescence in a mid-century context that enshrines the sense (fallacious, probably) that life was simpler and better then.

Doubtless those of us who can locate the world of the play somewhere in the depths of our childhood memories will find that it strums particular strings and speaks eloquently of an age, both historical and personal, gone by and irrecoverable. Houseman's 'blue remembered hills' spring (apparently) to mind.

But the play transcends its provincial boundaries and, while remaining charmingly understated, proffers characters we can all recognise and root for or against. Palin's insight is sharp (and sometimes a touch cruel in its accuracy) and he creates that most remarkable of things, a comedy which does not make you laugh out loud. It's funny because just being human is funny and we know it (and ourselves) when we see it.

As well as a gallery of excellent performances (and look out for Joan Sanderson as the not-quite-classic seaside landlady) the play enjoys a wonderfully apt score by George Fenton (Blue Planet and around a hundred other film and TV scores - I'm surprised they could afford him) which adds just the right touch of sepia.

But you'll really have to see this to realise how good it is. It's worth investing in the DVD because you *will* want to watch it again and again.
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on 7 August 2010
Believe me, holidays were really like this!

This is a wonderful gem of a film that the BBC excel at - wonderful script by Michael Palin; immaculate attention to historical detail; and wholly believable acting of whom Joan Sanderson's landlady undoubtedly steals the show. Social historians wanting to know how most familes spent one week in August in that dank, grey period between the end of World War II and the onset of cheap flights to Majorca in the 1970s need look no further.

The only gripe is, sadly, some of the colour has softened with age. It really should be properly restored. But don't let that put you off - just watch and enjoy.
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on 8 January 2011
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on 6 May 2010
Anyone who spent their childhood holidays on the East Coast will love this.
Southwold has hardly changed since it was filmed, except for the increased number of visitors who have found this magical spot.
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on 29 May 2011
This play positively oozes nostalgia! Although I didn't live near the East Coast in my childhood (I now actually live in Ipswich!!) I well remember being taken to the seaside with my parents in very similar circumstances to those suffered by the young man in the DVD. The film was made in 1986 (but set in the late 50s) and Southwold has changed very little, although the beach huts have now had a lick of paint and the pier has been beautifully restored. It's still rather upmarket as English seaside resorts go and, of course, the sandy beach and the beach huts are still there.

The play harks back to another age - was it an age of innocence? - where a quick snog behind a beach hut was something to boast about and 17-year-olds were much more under the thumb of their parents than they are nowadays. The young man in the play, a rather lonely, only child, is taken off for a week's holiday to Southwold by his rather elderly (in outlook as much as in age) parents where they stay in a boarding-house run by an overbearing termagant of a landlady (although she later shows that she really has a heart of gold buried somewhere under that formidable bosom) played by the magnificent Joan Sanderson. The boredom of such a holiday to a 17-year-old is clear and he pairs up with another young man (who considers himself very much to be a man of the world) who is staying in the same establishment. The two manage to escape their parents' eagle eyes and get themselves involved, not only with the twin daughters of an evangelist/vicar, but with two very pretty young girls, one English, one Dutch, who are staying in Southwold with the parents of the English one. The most exciting places available to teenagers in the late 50s were coffee bars and the local "hop" and it seems to have been amazingly difficult to get away from the parents, even to go to those! However, our hero and his friend do so, with interesting consequences.

The play is a gentle observation of a way of life which is now long gone and has many very funny moments - the sight of the family bumbling around an expanse of almost deserted beach for ages, looking for a place to put their deckchairs down, is priceless!

This is a DVD to be watched over and over again, when life seems fraught and you're in need of cheering up. I loved it!
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on 7 January 2010
I can only echo what the previous reviewer said about this over looked gem of a TV Movie. I cannot believe more than 20 years have passed since I previously saw this wonderful production. Michael Palin's script is bright, sweet, witty and never lapses into schmaltz. The evocation of a British seaside holiday from times gone past is perfectly captured. All that and Oona Kirsch looking beautiful - why did this lady never go on to be a massive film and TV star I shall never know. Highly recommended.
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on 11 June 2010
A friend introduced me to this excellent BBC DVD by Michael Palin. It brought back memories of my own family holidays as an adolescent boy. I live on the Suffolk coast and it all rang all too true! The characters are extremely well cast and the dialogue positively 'cringe-worthy' at times. I have already recommended it to several friends whom I know will also appreciate it.
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on 17 June 2010
I recorded this when it was first broadcast and as technology moved on, I junked my VHS recorder and tapes.
So I was delighted when I saw that Amazon were stocking this. John Nettleton and Joan Sanderson add their own unique polish to this production, which is a resume of 50s/60s seaside holidays in the UK as experienced by a post pubescent boy/young man eager to escape the confines of his middle class parents and taste the delights everyone but him seems to be enjoying.

First class comedy......and price!
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on 15 June 2014
Filmed on the real life seafront of Southwold, Suffolk, 1986-7.
Beautifully observed, non-assuming, coming of age film, written by Michael Palin and based obviously greatly on his (and thousands of others') quite vivid experiences of classic English Summer seaside holidays where the Guesthouses had a habit of throwing you out after breakfast no matter what the weather and you couldn't return until suppertime - a nightmare if the weather was bad. This was the reality for thousands of holidaymakers at places like Blackpool, Rhyl, Weston Super Mare, Southend and countless other major coastal towns in the 50s and 60s just before the advent of cheap airfares and continental package tours and these pseudo-genteel horrors were all most people expected since they had never even left the British Isles.
Edward Rawle Hicks is splendid as the teenager with emerging hormones who is bored to tears in a new location (he'd prefer Torquay) and wants far more action than a stultifyingly boring day on the beach with his parents; none of whom make any attempt to actually SWIM. Finally he finds some diversions. in some visiting teenage girls, a music club and the ultimate in 50s teen hangouts, the "Coffee Bar" but also gets unwittingly involved in the jolly clappy antics of the vicar with his Pulpit on the beach and the nauseating activities such as the "Sausage Sizzle". How innocent a time it all was, and just see how much children were still under their parents' thumbs. Even in the picture on the box ERH sits slightly separate from the folks as if slightly embarrassed.
Joan Sanderson as the doyenne of the guesthouse is an absolute hoot and stole the show. Nettleton and Heywood seem slightly too old to have a teenage boy but check out the close-up look of longing and despair on Pat's face when on the beach she mutters to her unobservant husband that they should have had a second child. The scene where all three first troop out onto the beach to find a "spot" to sit and end up back at the first ("Not near the steps", Let's get closer to the Pier" "Too many dogs..") is priceless and so, so true. Guests were 1) pathetically grateful for the boring non-cuisine (see: the discussion of the flavour of the soup), 2) belittled (Janine Duvitski's attampt to clear the table results in her shouting words to the effect "Number Four's still going" ie: eating too slow), 3)charged for every extra item(the packed lunches) and even 4) alcohol such as a small sherry before dinner was frowned upon. This was all rolled up with 5) the classic British stiff upper-lip grim and steely determination that no matter what happened you were there to "enjoy yourself" !...........God it must have been ***** awful.
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