This masterpiece by Lindsay Anderson should be on any film aficionado's must-see list. It is an uncompromising study of alienation, social class, maturity, and loneliness. Richard Harris gives a performance of astonishing realism: it seems unlikely he could ever surpass it. The character moves from physicalized anger to tenderness often within a moment. Harris builds to a completely believable dramatic eruption by the climax. He is matched all along the way by Rachel Roberts, a great actress in an unforgettable role: a woman unwilling to let go of the past and the pain it contains.
Anderson populates the film with several other memorable characters--an older man who seems to be in love with the hero, the grasping team-owner's wife who wishes to possess him.
The film contains scenes of nearly unbearable intensity and anguish (Frank's drunken ballad sung in a bar, or Margaret's pleading to be left alone). Also of note is the film's unusual structure, functioning on two levels at once: in "real time" and in Frank's memory, which he may be coloring by his own reactions (something for the viewer to contemplate).
The black and white cinematography is often beautiful as it poeticizes Frank's plight (for example, near the end of the film, he ends up wandering along moonlit railway tracks in a world of steely, silvery loneliness. Also of note, the wonderfully nightmarish music by Roberto Gerhard, an avant-garde composer who differed with the director on the scoring the film.
See the film on DVD for maximum quality. Although the disc contains no special features, it is good to know this great picture has been preserved in the new medium.