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It Always Rains on Sunday
Austerity noir: Ealing's downbeat but compelling East End thriller.
Director: Robert Hamer
The British New Wave came a decade earlier than advertised with Robert Hamer's downbeat postwar thriller. In a dank East End of ration-book misery, dosshouses and black marketeering, a world-weary housewife is shaken by the sudden reappearance of an old lover, now an escaped convict on the run. Restored by the BFI in 2012, Robert Hamer's solo directing debut is now recognised as one of the classics of British cinema's golden late-1940s.
At its centre is a career-best performance from the great Googie Withers (who married her co-star, John McCallum, a few months later), but the film is packed with compelling characters, from a trio of comically inept petty hoods touting knocked-off roller skates to a pair of chalk-and-cheese Jewish brothers - one a flash local bigwig, the other a pitiable dreamer and low-rent Lothario. It's utterly convincing in its portrait of a drab postwar East End in a vice of austerity, with a claustrophobic tension thanks to Duncan Sutherland's grimy art direction and Douglas Slocombe's quasi-noir cinematography. (Mark Duguid)