Poor Cow
"The plot is spartan, which does not mean it isn't engaging."

Being of the Seventies generation, I sat down in front of Poor Cow expecting an hour and 37 minutes of tortured womanhood to slit my wrists by. Thankfully, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Poor Cow is certainly a gritty portrayal of life on the breadline in the late Sixties, shot in a documentary style, but that does not mean that it is wholly downbeat.

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Joy (Carol White) is the epitome of working class London. She is young, blonde, beautiful, married to a crook, with a young son. Husband, Tom (John Bindon), is not a nice man and shortly finds himself detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure, only to be replaced in the marital bed by the much, much nicer Dave (Terence Stamp), who, despite also being a crook, is an all-round good egg.

Good egg he may be, but six months on he, too, gets nicked and so it is that Joy is left alone at home with no-one but her baby for company. She runs through a series of men, looking for she-knows-not-what.

The plot is spartan, which does not mean it isn't engaging. Joy's character is surprisingly complex for a Sixties portrayal of womanhood. There is more than a touch of voyeurism in scenes of her as a model and others, which border on Carry On Up the Kitchen Sink, tempered by her obvious resilience. Although she has little, we are not encouraged to pity her. In fact, the term "poor cow" couldn't be further from the truth.

Some of the best scenes are improvised, involving baby Johnny at the beach and funfair. There is such a look of wonderment on his and the other children's faces that you cannot help but find them uplifting.

Ultimately, Poor Cow is a strange contrast of styles. Parts feel incredibly modern, such as the police raid that today's thriller directors would be proud of, while the glimpses of breasts jar with a modern audience. Overall, however, this is an upbeat and humorous portrayal of working class strife in the Sixties which, while pulling no punches, chooses not to dwell on the negative aspects.

Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2001
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Working class life for young mother with criminal lovers in Sixties London. On reissue
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Director: Ken Loach

Writer: Nell Dunn, Ken Loach

Starring: Carol White, John Bindon, Terence Stamp, Kate Williams, Queenie Watts, Laurie Asprey, James Beckett, Ray Barron, Hilda Barry, Ken Campbell, Ron Clarke, Ellis Dale

Year: 1967

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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