The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Tom Courtenay, Michael Redgrave, Avis Bunnage, James Bolam,
This novel-into-film is a devastating portrait of a young man’s turmoil, and a virtuoso display of film technique in translating that inner state into exterior imagery. Tom Courtenay stars as Colin Smith, who lives with his dying father, callous mother, and screaming siblings in a cramped house located somewhere between a rock and a hard place. He is sent to a reformatory where the outside world’s clichés are institutionalized into a workaday program to create model citizens. The warden (Michael Redgrave), whose obsessive desire is to see his boys compete with public-school lads, sees a winning ticket in Colin, a veteran runner (from the coppers). On daily practice runs, Colin recalls in flashback the events that continue to shape his life. Courtenay embodies the transition from sad, to angry, to absurd young man in the way he sidles through his world, until he is cut free. Richardson, too, seems set free, in tandem with John Addison’s original score recording the pulse of each sequence.