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  Melody To Love Somebody
Year: 1971
Director: Waris Hussein
Stars: Mark Lester, Tracy Hyde, Jack Wild, Colin Barrie, Billy Franks, Ashley Knight, Craig Marriott, William Vanderpuye, Peter Walton, Camille Davis, Dawn Hope, Kay Skinner, Sheila Steafel, Roy Kinnear, James Cossins, Kate Williams, Ken Jones, Keith Barron
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: This morning eleven-year-old Daniel Latimer (Mark Lester) is marching with the Boys' Brigade which he has recently joined, and the leader of the division is very pleased at the way he has turned out looking very smart, especially compared to his fellow member Ornshaw (Jack Wild). Mind you, everyone laughs when Daniel points out that it was his mother (Sheila Steafel) who ensured he was well presented, and now she has arrived to take him home in her convertible sports car. Ornshaw sees an opportunity to get a lift home, and so a good friendship is begun - until the subject of girls intrudes...

Melody had the novelty of bringing back together two of the stars of the hit screen musical Oliver! in the persons of Lester and Wild, but this was an attempt to film something more realistic and relevant to the way in which London city kids lived their lives in 1971. It was scripted by future director Alan Parker, and dismissed at the time as strictly for the age group depicted, but of course there is now a host of viewers who might have caught this down the years for whom it is a source of great nostalgia.

Essentially this is a romance between Daniel and the title character, rather preciously called Melody (Tracy Hyde). The name is important, because not only is she a musical child (well, we hear her playing the recorder at any rate) but there is a carefully chosen soundtrack which is mostly made up of Bee Gees songs performed by the group. This cues up many montages of Daniel's life as he spends time either with new best friend Ornshaw or the girl who has captured his heart, Melody, and at various stages of sentimentality, in spite of the efforts to render a gritty tale that related to modern children.

That said, there's nothing wishy-washy about it, and in some ways this could be seen as a precursor to Gregory's Girl in its nicely observed depiction of school life, although the kids here are younger. Apart from Wild, that is, who could still - almost - get away with playing eleven even though he was seventeen when this was made, presumably one of the benefits of being a short actor. In fact, there are a good many laughs in this, from Daniel's friend who yearns to be an explosives expert and frequently fails, to Melody's feckless dad (Roy Kinnear) who cheerfully tells innapropriate anecdotes over the dinner table.

The film is very well cast, with even Lester's inavoidable wimpiness, so often to the fore in his films, seeming ideal for a boy who is something of an eccentric and dreamer. In effect, this is a series of related sketches in the life of Daniel, with the occasional conflict arising whether it's the class difference between him and Ornshaw, or the more prominent trouble he gets into with the adults when he and Melody decide to get married, not really understanding the implications of their love, or even if it will last the next few months. The story ends with the children very much gaining the upper hand in a busy and anarchic finale which has neither them nor the grown ups meeting eye to eye, and what emerges is undeniably slight as far as plots go, but containing great emotional resonance and charm nevertheless.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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