Elderly Mrs. Ross lives alone in her meager flat, scraping by on government assistance even as she claims to have great wealth. After finding stolen money she is victimized, making it necessary to find her support in her declining years.
Screenwriter Jake Armitage (Peter Finch) and his wife Jo Armitage (Anne Bancroft) live in London with six of Jo's eight children, with the two eldest boys at boarding school. The children ... See full summary »
In 1919, Hungarian Communists aid the Bolsheviks' defeat of Czarists, the Whites. Near the Volga, a monastery and a field hospital are held by one side then the other. Captives are executed... See full summary »
Beyond Mr. Conrad who attends to the allowance she receives through National Assistance, seventy-six year old Margaret Ross, who lives in a cluttered run-down flat, is emotionally all alone in the world. Her husband Archie left her over twenty years ago, and her grown criminal son Charlie only uses her for whatever he can get out of her. Despite being a bright woman, she is not totally in mind. She has several continual delusions, the most common being that her neighbors are listening to her through the apartment building's pipes and through her wireless radio. As such, she is constantly asking into thin air, "Are you there?" Following an extended hospitalization, the result of an unfortunate incident involving an unscrupulous woman she met at the National Assistance office, Margaret is no longer able to take care of herself. Mr. Conrad, who has taken a liking to her, takes it upon himself to ensure that she is well taken care of - physically, emotionally and legally. As such, the ...Written by
The director Bryan Forbes and Nanette Newman, who played the upstairs neighbor, were husband and wife. See more »
The old kitchen curtain is shown in scene after Archie leaves, while Margaret is moping around the apartment. The new curtains are shown again after she returns from seeing Mr. Conrad at the National Assistance Board. See more »
Brilliant performance by one of the theater's greatest luminaries
Dame Edith Evans, one of the British theater's greatest actresses of the first half of the twentieth century, gives a brilliant performance as a lonely old lady existing in seedy rented rooms in a grimy industrial town while scraping by on National Assistance. This film should be shown to everyone on their first day of work, before they fill out their tax deferred pension withholdings. If ever there was a good lesson for putting something away for one's old age, it is this film. It is a horror story of "This is what's going to happen to you if you don't start putting something aside for your old age."
Mrs. Ross lives alone in poverty despite a family of sorts, a work-shy husband who deserted her and a son who only comes by to hide stolen loot while pretending to visit. Her rooms are a disorderly clutter of books, old newspapers, glass bottles and anything she doesn't want to throw away. Her endless days are filled with visits to the local library reading room, to keep warm; the local mission church; the police station, to complain about the neighbors; and the social security office, to beg for more public assistance; which is doled out a few shillings at a time.
To escape this grim reality Mrs. Ross builds a fantasy world not unlike Luis in "Kiss of the Spider Woman". She exists in her fantasy of a privileged upbringing as the daughter of a Bishop, living in a palace, and watching the white gloved dancers at a ball. She awaits the settling of her fantasy father's estate and the fortune from the family cattle business. When she finds stolen money hidden by her shiftless son during a quick visit, she believes that her ship has finally come home and her fantasies are reality. It is not long before the vulnerable old lady is "befriended" and robbed by a steely eyed con woman, and dumped in an alley near her home. Although the welfare people do all they can to get her back on her feet and her husband to take care of her, by the film's end she has come full circle and has resumed her daily routine and her fantasy world.
Dame Edith, who was the original "St. Joan" on stage in the 1920's, and for whom Shaw wrote "The Millionairess" is rarely off the screen and gives a faultless performance in what could otherwise be a very depressing film about poverty and loneliness. Where at first you sympathise with the old lady who has come down in the world and is now living in genteel poverty, you come to understand that she never went up in the first place, the only genteel world she ever inhabited was in her mind, and that is where she now resides.
As for an acting tour de force, just watching the way Dame Edith conveys the lowly origins of Mrs. Ross without words, as in the way she eats - out of tins - lifting large slices of bread to her mouth (where they fall apart) rather than cutting the slice to small manageable portions, licking her fingers, reading at the table - all the things considered to be bad manners. The way she conveys old tired poverty, by slipping off her shoes in the library to warm her feet on the hot pipes, is a lesson in technique that all aspiring actors should take note of. You know as you watch her slowly make her way down the cobbled streets carrying her large tote bag that this pathetic old lady is a prime target for a mugging, or a slip and fall. I would recommend this film to anyone who wants to study great acting and to those who are concerned with the plight of the elderly.
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