(1961)4Mark DemingWhile it was hardly the first of the British "Angry Young Man" dramas of the late 1950s/early 1960s (Look Back In Anger beat it to the screen by nearly two years), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was one of the best, thanks largely to a superb performance by Albert Finney in his first leading film role. Finney's turn as Arthur Seaton practically defined the archetypal working-class yob who is just smart enough to know that his life is going nowhere, but not sharp enough to do anything about it; dozens more like him would follow, but few were able to give him the street smarts and fine edge of bitter wit that Finney brought to the character's charming amorality. The film made him a star overnight. Director Karel Reisz knew enough to keep Finney front and center throughout, but he also created an appropriately dingy atmosphere for his star; the film's sense of grubby detail is so keen that one can almost smell the smoke and stale beer in the pubs, and feel the heat in the factory where Arthur spends his weekdays. If time has dated Alan Sillitoe's screenplay, its spirit remains true to any post-adolescent would-be rebel either searching for a cause or not bothering to look for one. While Rachel Roberts doesn't get nearly as showy a role as Finney, her performance as Brenda, the unhappy housewife having an affair with Arthur, is every bit as strong, and she's perhaps the only actor in this movie who doesn't seem intimidated in her scenes with the leading man. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning can't escape being a product of its time, but its intelligence and rich store of talent make it powerful and relevant for any generation.