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Up The Junction
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A girl from the fashionable end of Chelsea goes down Market to Battersea to experience life. Based on a semi-documentary about Lond on's freewheeling lifestyles of the 1960s.
Tired of her comfortable life in Chelsea, Polly (Suzy Kendall, To Sir With Love) decides to go 'slumming' in Battersea to see how the other half lives. She soon settles into her new digs, gets a job at a factory, and makes some friends. When one of those friends accidentally falls pregnant, Polly is awakened to the reality that abortion is illegal and can only be gotten through shady back-street dealings. Controversial at the time of its release due to the uncomfortable subject matter, Up the Junction presents a gritty, unappealing view of working class life in Britain, and calls to mind such kitchen sink dramas as Mike Leigh's Vera Drake and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Based on the novel of the same name by Nell Dunn.
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The description of the film needs changing, however. Blink and you will miss Susan George.
Youth culture is at the centre of this generous film, about social and class identity, how two parallel worlds meet and collide with spectacular conclusion. I imagined this documentary style - kitchen-sink reality piece to focus entirely on the widespread back-street abortion shops, yet not at all: It provided so much more information and guidance than I had anticipated as well as gave a very different perspective on even the Mod-Rocker lifestyle, often portrayed as two opposing gangs - Quadraphonia a classic example made in the same era that Up The Junction was cast. This film sees a union of the two gangs in their shared behaviours and attitudes, a recognition that although they are struggling for individual identity, also caught in the same deprived web, seeking a sense of belonging from each other in a united co-existence.
The main body of characters are just starting out as actors themselves, makes this a credible experience. You cannot draw biased conclusions, which is a hallmark of a great kitchen-sink reality film.
The story is great too, and tackles the hopes and dreams of the different social classes, and their attitudes to life and money. In many ways it all looks a bit innocent now, even the hard-hitting stuff, and you'd imagine that rich Chelsea girl Suzy Kendall would actually have lasted about five minutes in the real world. However, the film is 40 years old, so that could just be the cynical 21st century viewer speaking.
Dennis Waterman looks about fifteen but his acting, along with all the others, is brilliant. I want his scooter too. Everyone looks stylish, except the rockers, and even Maureen Lipman looks hip when she's not in a pinafore. Up the Junction is a superb film, with an atmospheric and evocative soundtrack, and if you have any interest whatsoever in our cultural and social past, have a look at it.
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