One of the finest British films ever made, this benchmark of "kitchen-sink realism" follows the self-defeating professional and romantic pursuits of a miner turned rugby player eking out an existence in drab Yorkshire. With an astonishing, raging performance by a young Richard Harris, an equally blistering turn by fellow Oscar nominee Rachel Roberts as the widow with whom he lodges, and electrifying direction by Lindsay Anderson, in his feature-film debut following years of documentary work, This Sporting Life remains a dramatic powerhouse.
Prolific British filmmaker Lindsay Anderson weaves this small, evocative tale of young life at the crossroads in early 1960s Northern England. A rough, sullen young man (Richard Harris) working in the local coal mines begins to make a name for himself as a star rugby player, but even as he begins to fall in love he cannot escape the harsh realities of the bleak life around him. The rugby sequences in the film are striking, but no more so than the depiction of downtrodden people living in the shadow of industry and corruption that too often crushes their spirit. Harris in one of his first roles, is remarkably effective as an unlikable but sympathetic figure trying against hope to savor the small joys life has to offer, and the film also features the debut of renowned actress Glenda Jackson. One of a series of working-class, character-driven British imports, This Sporting Life
is one of the best on the field. --Robert Lane
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