(1989)3Mike CummingsIn this 1989 made-for-TV film, director Judy Dench concentrates all the emotional power of John Osborne's 1956 play into a single setting -- a dingy attic flat in post-World War II Britain. And Dench's approach works, as in the stage play. For Osbourne's drama is about people, not places -- people struggling to cope with an economically and socially woozy Britain convalescing after the sickness of war. Kenneth Branagh plays the central character, Jimmy Porter, an angry young man educated for higher things but forced to accept a job at a candy shop. At one level, Branagh is the universal man leading a life of quiet desperation; at another, he is the postwar Briton grappling with a struggling economy and the outdated values of the imperial British past. Trapped in the claustrophobia of his flat, his marriage, and his self-pity and cynicism, he lashes out at everyone--in particular at his wife Allison (Emma Thompson), the daughter of upper-crust parents; his business partner Cliff (Gerard Horan); and Allison's friend Helena (Siobhan Redmond), an actress with whom he has an affair. Branagh, Thompson, Horan, and Redmond all turn in strong performances, summoning enough angst and pathos to take the audience on a cathartic joy ride. Curiously, Branagh and Thompson were husband and wife at the time of the film, and later divorced after Branagh became enamored of a real-life Helena, actress Helena Bonham Carter.
Made for British television, 1989's Look Back in Anger is the third film adaptation of John Osborne's legendary "kitchen sink" stage drama. Kenneth Branagh plays working-class roisterer Jimmy Porter, the archetypal "angry young man" whose college education has led nowhere. Stuck in a go-nowhere job at a candy store, Porter rebels against the establishment through his boorish treatment of his wife (Emma Thompson) and mistress (Siobhan Redmond). Branagh's forceful performance allows us to ignore the structural shortcomings inherent in the play (Osborne writes in fluent tract). Earlier filmizations of Look Back in Anger starred Richard Burton and Malcolm McDowell.