From 1962 comes the Bryan Forbes classic, based on Lynne Reid Banks’ novel, The L-Shaped Room. A tale of morality in 1960’s Britain.
Leslie Caron (Gigi, Chocolat) plays Jane Fosset, a French woman who finds herself in London, knowing very few people and now pregnant.
She takes a room at some lodgings at Doris’s place, Avis Bunnage (Gandhi, The Krays), which has seen better days.
There she meets the eclectic mix of people such as Johnny, Brock Peters (To Kill A Mockingbird, Star Trek Deep Space Nine (TV)), a black jazz trumpeter who is rejected for more than just his colour.
In the basement is prostitute Sonia, Patricia Phoenix (Coronation Street (TV), Constant Hot Water (TV)), on the first floor, Toby, Tom Bell (The Krays, Let Him Have It), a struggling writer and on the ground floor is Mavis, Cicely Courtneidge (Along Came Sally, On The Buses (TV)), as a faded music hall star.
Everyone’s assumption is that Jane will want to get rid of the baby, and no-one is shy in making that assumption to her face, including doctors. However, it’s in the face of this that she decides to keep it.
As she gets to know the people in the lodgings, Tom falls in love with her. She hasn’t told him about the baby but given everyone is crammed into the house like sardines it doesn’t take long before her neighbour Johnny, who hears her being sick in the morning, figures it out and tells Tom.
To say that Tom doesn’t react well is perhaps a huge understatement. In fact, the whole character of Tom I didn’t get on with at all, perhaps that is what men were like in the 60’s, perhaps some aren’t different now, but he rankled me a lot.
The L-Shaped Room is a wonderfully written and directed piece of work. The interactions between the characters is believable and the way Forbes frames things leaves you in no doubt where people are seen in the class-culture of the day.
A scene involving Tom and Jane lying together in a park for instance, sees them being shouted at by a ranger. Forbes placing us, the viewer, on the floor, with the sun just over the ranger’s shoulder. It means we’re being talked down to, we’re the ones in the wrong.
Another scene sees Jane meet up with the biological father of the baby, who is unware at this point he is the father or that she’s even pregnant. They meet in a pub for a chat and have the most awkward conversation about their time together whilst a po-faced old couple sit opposite them, looking on disapprovingly.
The L-Shaped Room would be nothing without some stellar performances from the cast involved. Caron is wonderful as Jane, recognised with a Golden Globe and BAFTA for her performance.
Courteneidge as the faded, nosy, music hall star now living alone with her cat is a wonderful performance. Moving and sweet, with a hint of something more in her back story.
Peters too has an unmentionable, and never spoken about openly, skeleton in the closet shall we say. Whilst Bell plays his role very believably.
The L-Shaped Room is a delicate handling of where social morals stood just before the 60’s sexual revolution launched into full swing.
The film has been brought bang up to date with a 4K restoration as well in interviews with Leslie Caron, Lynne Reid Banks and a featurette: The L-Shaped Room & The British New Wave.
The L-Shaped Room is released on DVD and Blu-ray on the 27th November 2017.