Plot: What’s it about?
Colin (Tom Courtenay) is a young man who seems to always find trouble, thanks to his lack of noble ambition and sense of entitlement. The world of labor has no interest for him, so instead of a normal job to make cash, he turns to petty crime and has little regret over that decision. But when his actions land him in the hands of the law, he is forced to re-examine his life, as he serves time in Borstal. Borstal is a reformatory and while there, Colin engages in the activity which helps him maintain inner balance, so he runs whenever he gets the chance. He is a fast runner too, catching the attention of those around him, as he credits his escapes from police for his skills. Although he resents the system and especially the process of justice, he is selected to represent Borstal in a long distance race. The school’s leader (Michael Redgrave) has a vested interested in winning the race, which is held against a public school and he knows Colin is his best chance. As he runs in preparation, Colin looks back on his life and how he ended up at this point, then lines up to represent the system he so resents. In this most unusual situation, as Colin readies to run for the very establish he despises, will he finally follow the rules or will he use the race to send a message?
I didn’t know what to expect, but The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a well crafted movie that has a lot of positives. I think the camera work here is superb, almost every shot is lined up well and while not flashy, the cinematography stands out and is impressive. I’ve seen this movie compared to the French New Wave movement and with good reason, as it shares many of the traits found in those pictures. Some find it to be overly derivative, while others claim that if this were made by a director like Francois Truffaut, it would be considered a masterpiece. I don’t agree with either side in total, though it is easy to see both perspectives, as this movie does borrow from French New Wave, but does so with great skill. So this might take a lot from those movies, but it does so while offering its own vision and texture. I do think that while relevant at the time of production, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner has become quite a bit dated. That is to be expected, but of course, that means some of the power behind the message is lost in the tunnels of time. The performances have held up well however, impressive turns that drive the story and Tom Courtenay leads the cast. This was an early role for Courtenay, but as he showed here and in the excellent Billy Liar, even at the start of his career he had a sharp sense of presence. I recommend this movie to those interested, but it is more of a one time watch for most folks, especially with this bare bones.
Video: How does it look?
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. I don’t think any restoration work has been done, but the movie still looks quite good here. I saw minimal print wear, damage, or specks and I also found no compression flaws, which is impressive to say the least. The black & white image is clean and sharp at all times, while black levels are stark and well balanced. I’ve been watching a lot of HD content of late, so my expectations are high these days, but for what it is, this movie looks quite solid.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original mono track is used and while it has no bells & whistles, the basics are present and in fine form. The audio has no traces of age related problems I could hear and though mono is limited, the range was quite good given those limits. The music sounds clean and bold, with no distortion and the sound effects come across well also here. The main focus is the dialogue however, which sounds clean and crisp throughout the film, no problems in the least to report. This might not be an explosive mix, but given the age and nature of the movie, this is an impressive offering. This disc also includes English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.