Directed by: Charles Crichton
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Length: 61 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 11 January 2010
Cat No: OPTD1471
Screen ratio 1:1.33
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For generations the Stoner and Smith families have lived and worked on the canals. But now this idyllic way of life is threatened - the... Read More
If the great Soviet director Alexander Dovzhenko had made a film about canal boats, it wouldn't have looked too different from this Ealing offering from producer Michael Balcon and director Charles Crichton.
Made in the summer of 1944, but only released after the war, it's a classic piece of poetic realism, in which factual information is combined with low-key drama to convey the hardships and joys of life on the cut. Typifying the studio's obsession with tradition and progress, the story centres on the romance between motorised boatman Robert Griffiths (who envisages quitting the waterways after fighting for his country) and Jenny Laird, whose doughty father, Bill Blewitt, prefers the four-legged kind of horse power.
Some of the accents sound plummier than James McKechnie's delivery of poet Louis MacNeice's evocative commentary. But Douglas Slocombe's photography is sublime and Crichton's juxtaposition of close-ups and bucolic vistas helps capture the grit and grind of narrow boat existence, while also emphasising its sense of community and the importance of its contribution to the war effort. A neglected gem.