A Taste of Honey (1961)

A Taste of Honey
Directed by Tony Richardson
Written by Shelagh Delaney and Tony Richardson from a play by Delaney
1960/UK
Woodfall Film Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

Geoffrey: You need somebody to love you while you’re looking for somebody to love.

 

There is some very fine acting in this kitchen sink drama featuring an Angry Young Woman.

Teenager Jo (Rita Tushingham) is a bit of an odd-ball – not surprisingly considering her upbringing. As the film begins she is living with her self-centered single mother Helen (Dora Bryan).  Helen has had one affair after another and is currently seeing a younger man, Peter, who has marriage on his mind.  Jo and Helen squabble constantly.

Jo meets a kind sailor and embarks on her first romance.  Before he goes off to sea again, they consummate the relationship.

Peter can’t stand having the smart-mouthed Jo around.  She gets a job selling shoes and rents a ramshackle apartment that is clearly too big for her.  She befriends an equally odd-ball customer named Geoff (Murray Melvin) and he moves in with her.  Before long, Jo finds she is pregnant.  Her anxiety level is only raised by the fact that the baby will be black.  But Geoff, who is gay, is more than willing to act as a surrogate father.  This leads to a war of wills between Geoff and Dora.

This film deservedly raised Tushingham to prominence and the performances of Bryan and Melvin rise to her level.  Bryan actually manages to make a basically unlikeable character oddly touching.  The story is interesting and the treatment of the race and gay questions is fresh and non-judgemental.  I was puzzled by the unresolved ending.  I would have liked something a bit tidier.  Still recommended.

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