The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

"Good"

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Review


Overwrought metaphors are never a good thing, of course, though every now and again they can have a certain impact in the right piece of art, if used properly. One thing they don't do, though, is age well, a fact well born out by Tony Richardson's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, which tries to use the sport of its title as a metaphor for rebellion, alienation, and, yes, freedom. While this central device of the film hasn't aged that well in the four decades hence, that is not to say that the film is without merit, just that it may be hard to take quite so seriously.

Colin Smith, the classic angry young man of disaffected postwar England, puts it all right out there in the film's first line, "Running's always been a big thing in our family, especially running away from the police." Played by a brooding Tom Courtenay, Colin is doing quite a bit of running in general when the police finally catch up with him for breaking into a bakery (a crime that is only mentioned at first, we'll only see it all much later, gradually built up to in flashback). Sent off to a reform school, Colin at first sets himself apart through his sarcasm, the first line of defense for any proper cinematic anti-hero. Despising everyone pretty equally -- especially the whingeing new administrator, spouting new-fangled psychological nonsense that's as condescending as the school's old-fashioned authoritarian rot -- Colin finds a release of sorts in running. It seems a pure thing, especially when he's given leave to go on unsupervised practice runs in the countryside, where he gambols through woods and babbling brooks while jazz tinkles on the soundtrack. Simple and ultimately pointless, it's nevertheless a sight better than his previous life.

Shot in glacial shades of black and white, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is generally aiming for bleakness, especially when concerning the inescapably grotty and low-income nature of Colin's upbringing. We see a small, prefab house in the shadow of a looming factory and ranked townhouses, with younger siblings screaming inside and a mother bitter about life, but hardly about her recently dead husband, whom she valued only for the 500 pounds his death provided her. Colin couldn't care less about the money, he burns some of his share and uses the rest to take a girl to the beach for a weekend. He can barely think about the future, except that at the school he's starting to see that the head administrator has taken a shine to his athletic skills, thinking Colin is his secret weapon to beat a nearby public school, against whom they'll be competing in a mini-Olympic athletic competition.

Courtenay has the perfect look for a man as conflicted as he, his scarecrow gauntness and sarcastic voice (like he was chewing a mouthful of glass) the picture of a man torn between worlds. On the one hand he desires to be free, on the other, he can't imagine selling out to a system that has dehumanized him and those like him for countless years. As powerfully as Richardson (a normally cool and calculating director) and screenwriter Sillitoe convey Colin's antiheroism, though, they can't quite get a grasp on the rest of the film, which shuttles inconclusively between realism and cliché.

An iconic representation of a time, less so now.



The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 104 mins

In Theaters: Monday 8th October 1962

Distributed by: Continental

Production compaines: Woodfall Film Productions, British Lion-Columbia Distributors

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Fresh: 14 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Ruxton Towers Reformatory governor, as Colin Smith, Avis Bunnage as Mrs. Smith, as Brown, House Master, as Mike, as Roach, Dervis Ward as Detective, Topsy Jane as Audrey, Julia Foster as Gladys

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.