Friday, 20 March 2015
Blooming Youth (1973)
I probably like/rate Blooming Youth a teensy bit more than most because I'm a fan of the director/devisor Les Blair (a school contemporary of Mike Leigh and fellow proponent of improv) and because I loved some of the characterisation in this admittedly heavy character piece.
This was Les Blair's debut for the Play For Today strand and came hot on the heels of his producer and editor credit on Mike Leigh's Hard Labour, at just three months later. An improvised piece, Blooming Youth centres on a group of four students at a polytechnic - then a relatively new institution - who share a house together. Granted, not a lot happens here, but its such an authentic depiction of student life with its monumental boredom and power dynamics being played out in squalid little rooms for which the rent is always due and privacy is a rare commodity.
Central to my enjoyment of this is the brilliant double act between Philip Jackson's recalcitrant and feckless cynic Jeff and Colin Higgins' highly intelligent, permanently grimacing and shy Jim. Like with Mike Leigh's films, the work that clearly went on off screen to flesh these characters and the bond that they share out is palpable on screen. I could have happily spent double the length of this movie in their company; they are just so astutely captured. I honestly cannot praise these two highly enough. Also filling out the cast are Peter Kinley and Lydia Lisle as the couple who share the house with Jeff and Jim, Peter Jonfield as an itinerant who dosses down there for a few days and drives a wedge between the lovers, and Carrie Lee Baker and Rynagh O'Grady as girls who catch Jeff and Jim's respective eye.
A lovingly rich depiction of growing pains and those first tentative steps into maturity and the real world, Blooming Youth also works now as a study in '70s anthropology. Producer Tony Garnett (a TV God) who helped steer the improv alongside Blair would go on to helm the excellent '90s student house/young employee drama This Life and in some ways this is an interesting precursor to compare and contrast it with.
Some wonderful person has uploaded Blooming Youth to YouTube where it is available to view in full, but to get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic plays please sign the petition I started here