From the overindulgent opening post-wedding scene, it’s pretty obvious what the thrust of the John Schlesinger film A Kind of Loving’s subject is going to aim towards. The importance romantic relationships will hold in this story – the dichotomy between what they could be and what they in fact are – transforms this feature from a basic drama to something a little more complex. Set in 1960s Manchester, it’s a wonderfully curious thing that something so specific to the era in which it was made – the cobbled streets and misty rolling hills of this northern town, the people, the social norms – can maintain such solid resonance.
When Victor Brown, an ambitious twenty-something year old draughtsman, catches the eye of Ingrid Rothwell at his sister’s wedding, he is immediately intrigued. As it turns out, Ingrid works in the same factory as he does, giving him the opportunity to begin a flirtatious pursual and the initial exciting, optimistic dates. However, although the attraction is initially there, something seems to be a little off. Vic’s eagerness to take their passion to further levels is met with anxious hesitation by Ingrid and, worst of all, as time passes his feelings towards her fluctuate – entering an arena where he randomly turns hot or cold with each passing day.
Perhaps unfortunately for them, they’re not afforded the time to work out where the relationship is going or if it’s even worth continuing as Ingrid falls pregnant and a shotgun wedding is hastily thrown together. Married life is a whole new choppy sea for them to attempt to navigate and with tensions between Vic and his mother-in-law thrown into the mix, the couple comes close to breaking point (mentally as well as matrimonially).
The strength of the film lies in the unconventionality of their relationship and specificity of their problems. It’s interesting to see how this budding curious attraction, with all its puppy-love awkwardness and shy hesitation, slowly transforms into something so sour. Pitched alongside the successful, far more straightforward marriage of his older sister and the burgeoning, wide-eyed desires of his young brother it’s all the more evident what a terrible purgatory they’ve found themselves in.
Where things fall a little flat are still important moments inbetween. With such an interesting dynamic between Vic and Ingrid, a lot of the passing conversations and exchanges outside of the pair feel more like filler, dialling back the possibility of a building intensity and waiting for events to return the attention to the main attraction. But it does well in pinpointing the moments where Vic quietly loses interest in Ingrid; the way he wants her and then doesn’t, from burning passion to bare tolerance. This plus the flawed nature of their characters leads to the high octane clashes – Vic isn’t a bad person, but he makes bad decisions which he doesn’t deal with well and leans towards selfishness.
There are layers to the difficulty and the misery, and when the scrutiny of the magnifying glass is focused on the singularity of their situation the events reach peak captivation. It also makes the title all the more significant – it’s not a normal type of love but it is something, it’s unique to them, and they might just have to make their peace with that.
A Kind of Loving is out now DVD and Blu-Ray.