Googie Withers

It Always Rains on Sunday (Robert Hamer, UK 1947)

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it alwasy rains

The thrills and quiet desperation of working class life in Bethnal Green, vividly rendered in this exciting noir. The film doesn’t just tell us a story but evokes the ‘structures of feeling’ of a whole way of life, one that unlike in Ken Loach’s films, recognises poor people’s pleasures: the thrill of illicit sex, of betting and crime, the joy of what can be done with a simple mouth organ; the little treacheries, the lies and power ploys that even nice people engage with to get what they want. The film works with the greys of family life, we get to know what it is to settle but also to love; the reasons why a stepmother might not be very nice to her stepdaughters, why otherwise good people give in to temptations, how a Jewish family with high moral standards resists and accommodates criminality and both suffer and gain from it as a result. Through it all, the tedium of this rainy Sunday in Bethnal Green is lashed through with crime and passion, ending with a marvellous set-piece at the rail-yard. Googie Withers is the personification of surly discontentment as a good-time girl who’s settled for a quiet life with an older man only to have all her old passions explode when her old flame escapes from prison and tries to find shelter in her busy home. She throws enough shade to shroud all of Bethnal Green in a fog of dashed hopes, sexual expectation and seething discontent.Brilliant.

 

José Arroyo