- Movie Rating -

Wish You Were Here (1987)

| July 28, 1987

It is interesting how these things happen.  I just wrote a review of Summer School in which chastised the movie for never having a close approximation of the kinds of kids who attend summer school and now here I am reviewing a movie about a girl who, in reality, might very likely have been there.

Lynda, played in a fearless performance by Emily Lloyd, is disturbingly close to the kinds of kids that I went to school with.  She has a troubled home life.  Her mother is dead and her father is a drunk and with that comes a dangerous free-spirit without boundaries or structure.  In another environment, this kind of freedom might be able to flower into something positive, but she is not living in circumstances that would call for that.  This is working-class England in the early 1950, a time and a geography that is still rattled by the war and there are expectations for Lynda and every other young woman to not only know her place but to stay in it.

Her age is important.  She is 16, an age at which she stands at the precipice, between childhood innocence and the realization of the sexual power that she has over the boys in town.  It isn’t the cause of nymphomania or whatever pornographic nonsense that modern Hollywood would like to inject into it.  This is a very specific person living under a very specific set of circumstances in a very specific time and place.

What is most interesting about this movie is that it never judges Lynda.  David Leland, the writer and director doesn’t take a stand on either side.  He lets us see the public reaction to her free-wheeling manner.  Her father is indifferent.  Her aunt is angry about how she carries herself and most adults are aghast.  Leland threads this through drama but also through bittersweet comedy.  In that way, often we are not led to an emotional payoff.  It’s challenging in that way.

I was delighted to see that the movie came from Leland, a first-time director who had previously written Personal Services, about the real-life Madame Cynthia Payne who ran a bordello for older gentlemen; and Mona Lisa, that Neil Jordan movie where Bob Hoskins played an ex-con who drives a prostitute to her appointments.  His film are not about the exploitation of sex, but about the grounded reality, from a Madame to a prostitute to a girl who seems that many around her would assume is headed in that direction.

Of those three films, this is the most intimate, a portrait of a girl who is free with her sexuality at a time and place when sex was thought to be nasty and forbidden, yet given the population, apparently very abundant.  Where Lynda is headed is sort of hard to tell since her trajectory seems to be very open.  Too open.  The dangers lie ahead of her and we wonder about her fate.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Drama