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  A Touch of Love Baby Makes Two
Year: 1969
Director: Waris Hussein
Stars: Sandy Dennis, Ian McKellen, Eleanor Bron, John Standing, Michael Coles, Rachel Kempson, Peggy Thorpe-Bates, Kenneth Benda, Sarah Whalley, Shelagh Fraser, Deborah Stanford, Margaret Tyzack, Roger Hammond, Maurice Denham, Penelope Keith
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Rosamund Stacey (Sandy Dennis) is studying for her philosophy doctorate while living in London, an apartment belonging to her well-to-do parents who are spending the year, maybe longer, doing good works in Africa. However, while she makes claim to having two boyfriends at this time, she is not really serious about either, and has a habit of allowing her relationships to slip away from her, so she has made a point of not consummating either of them, which made it all the more remarkable that she should allow a television presenter acquaintance, George (Ian McKellen), to seduce her, especially as she believed him to be homosexual. Although he too has drifted from her life, he has left something behind...

Which is a pregnancy that Rosamund is not even sure she wants, hence the opening sequence where she tries to induce a miscarriage (bottle of gin, steaming hot bath) but is thwarted by the arrival of her flatmate Lydia (Eleanor Bron) and some of her pals who drink all the alcohol and allow the water to go cold. A Touch of Love was a curious little film while remaining mundane in its setting and overall impression, an adaptation of Margaret Drabble's novel The Millstone with the screenplay penned by Drabble herself to adhere as closely to her source as she possibly could. Dennis was the star imported from the United States to take the lead, dialling down her eccentric quirks for a largely closed off and muted performance.

Maybe the most unlikely element about this was who was putting up the money. Amicus had become well known in Britain and beyond for their horror movies, as the chief rival to Hammer's output, but its head producer Milton Subotsky evidently yearned to be taken seriously away from the chillers and into heavyweight drama, so funded this. It was not a hit, but he did go on to say it was the film he was most proud of when he was looking back on his career, which was quite sad for it suggested all the horror he was most appreciated for was not what he wanted to make at all, that in spite of writing many of the scripts and researching the possible material himself: apparently what he had wanted was respectability all along.

He did not especially get it with this, for the critical consensus was that it was well-meaning but rather despondent, falling into the trap that said classic cinema had to be weighty and mirthless, when that did not necessarily have to be true (even The Seventh Seal has jokes in it). There was nothing to laugh at here, so stern was it you would be frightened to crack a smile in its company, as Rosamund decides to keep the baby and endures all the trials and tribulations of late sixties Britain where single mothers were far from encouraged, to put it mildly, as abortion or adoption were the main two options for the unwed and pregnant. Our heroine was not having that, she knows her own mind and believes herself to be perfectly capable of bringing up the child alone, and alone would seem to be the operative word.

Rosamund came across as someone so independent that she did not really have anyone in her life she could rely on, the closest person she has is Lydia who rarely takes her sincerely enough to be counted on (though she does make sure she gets to the hospital when she goes into labour), and she may be desperately lonely underneath that rather cold exterior, but she was not about to admit it to anyone and reach out to salve that emptiness in her life, she is too proud for that. Dennis was unexpectedly effective in the role if you were used to seeing her more typical stylings, just as well when for much of this she was carrying the whole show, though director Waris Hussein, in the short period when he was making cinematic works rather than the television he would be best known for, guided proceedings with a steady hand in a somewhat "one damn thing after another" manner. Dennis had some very decent support, though McKellen, for whom this was his film debut, only showed up at the beginning and end, latterly for a poignant conclusion to the question of whether Rosamund should have courted company, any company, in her salad days, and the repercussions it will have as she grows older: Sally No-Mates, basically. Music by Michael Dress.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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