This Sporting Life

 

Directed by: Lindsay Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

Frank Machin is a difficult man. He is difficult to like. He is quick to sock someone in the nose, to throw things, to yell and scream when he doesn’t get his way. He is a brute. And yet he is passionate. He is passionate about the woman he is lodging with. He is passionate about her children. He is passionate about rugby. He is kind in his brutish fashion and never gives up his love for his woman landlord. Maybe he feels too much and he is so repressed by the ideals at the time to allow him to express his feelings in any other fashion. Or maybe he is just quite simply a sociopath.

 

The film opens up with a rugby scene. It is a quick scene full of passes, rushes, and tackles. Rugby is a very physical game. More so than soccer or football, rugby uses your whole body, gets you more injured and leads to more grass and mud stains on your clothes. Frank is the obvious star of whatever team he is playing on and he gets a chance to get out of the mines and into the big leagues.

 

He spends his first check foolishly on a Bentley, a big, garish white monstrosity of a car. He parades around like he is proud of it, although he is told several times that it is going to be stripped and left for spare parts if he leaves it parked on the street in his working class neighborhood.

 

Mrs. Margaret Hammond is a widow with two children who has to take in a lodger in order to help pay the bills. She is not a happy woman. She still shines the shoes of her dead husband and puts them out on the hearth in order to keep them warm for her husband’s return. It is noticeable from the very beginning of the film that there is something wrong with her. She has gone a little bit off of her rocker.

 

Frank is not a subtle man. He makes his intentions towards her loudly and clearly from the very beginning. She also is not a subtle woman and she yells back at him and tells him to leave several times. Eventually after several scenes of him being sweet to her children and him calling her sunshine while he is drunk, she gives in to his advances. Their first scene together is a rough one to take. It seems that is could almost be a rape scene.

 

She is happy for a moment but then is thrown into the harsh light of things when they sit at a fancy restaurant together. He reverts back to his caveman ways. He doesn’t have any other way to act.

 

The relationship dissolves from there while he is also loosing favor with the rugby team leaders and his friends. He reacts to all of this crumbling down around him with typical anger.

 

This film is a tough net to unravel. I have a hard time liking it very much. I don’t sympathize with the main character although I respect Richard Harris’ choices. My gut reaction to him is one of aversion. I can understand exactly where Margaret is coming from. There are some scene choices I find trite, like one of the last scenes where Frank punches a spider. It is such an obvious metaphor that I think the film would be better without. I also don’t need to see scene after scene of Frank trying to lure Margaret in with his brashness. I get it.

 

I respect this film for the performances mostly. I would recommend it only if you have an interest in seeing Richard Harris or the inspiration behind Jake LaMotta (Raging Bull), but other than that, I wouldn’t watch it.

 

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