Sometimes referred to as Kitchen Sink Realism, the British New Wave film movement began in the 1950s, and saw continued popularity throughout the 1960s. The films are noted for stark realist portrayals of the struggling working class, and often highlight their desperation for a better life.
Kes (1969) is directed by Ken Loach. Billy Casper’s outlook is rather grim from the abuse he suffers at home and school until he begins to nurture and train a kestrel bird. A good argument can be made for Kes being the quintessential British New Wave film, directed by the quintessential director of the movement. Ken Loach’s many films usually champion the working class.
A Taste of Honey (1961) is directed by Tony Richardson. A teenage girl is at odds with her mother, which makes their life of poverty all the more unbearable. As they break ties, the girl finds meaning from her newfound independence, and burgeoning love interest. Realism and truth can be underscored within this gem.
Room at the Top (1959) is directed by Jack Clayton. A man relocates to a new town with the intention of making his mark in the world amidst a postwar English backdrop. His aspirations include winning the reciprocated love of a young woman from the upper class.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) is directed by Tony Richardson. Discontent surges through Colin Smith as he notes the inequities and futility of life for the working class. His actions send him to a reformatory where he finds an unlikely identity as a long-distance runner.
This Sporting Life (1963) is directed by Lindsay Anderson. Richard Harris gives a dramatic performance, which echoes that of Marlon Brando’s in A Streetcar Named Desire. Likewise, Anderson’s direction served as inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull. A brash man rises in economic station through his brutal rugby skills and then must navigate his new life of fortune, placing him somewhere in between the classes.