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RELEASED: 1966, Cert.PG
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 85 mins
DIRECTOR: Ken Loach
PRODUCER: Tony Garnett
SCREENPLAY: Jeremy Sandford
MUSIC: Paul Jones plus various others
Carol White as Cathy
Ray Brooks as Reg
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Carol absconds from what she feels is a boring home life with her parents, to London. When in London, she meets and eventually marries Reg. They have children together and move into a social housing type property.
When Reg has an accident at work and as a result becomes unemployed, the couple struggle to find suitable accommodation after being evicted from their home due to having built up huge rent arrears.
Things become very fraught as Cathy and Reg drift from pillar to post, squatting, getting moved on, then camping out in a caravan for a while on an Irish gypsy settlement in Islington.
Money is tight and the gypsy settlement gets raided by police....and Cathy is housed in a women's shelter, where she is separated from Reg as husbands aren't allowed to reside at the shelter. This gradually causes a breakdown in Cathy and Reg's relationship, and things go from bad to worse.
When Cathy Come Home was first screened on British TV as part of the Play For Today series, it had a dramatic impact on the collective consciousness of the British public. It quite likely was the first time the ordinary person in the street had a deep insight into the problems caused by hardship and homelessness in Britain's inner cities.
Cathy Come Home is presented in part acted, part documentary format. The documentary aspect is so very well put together, to the point where it really does come across as a public information programme rather than a fictitious drama.
All of the acting is first class. Carol White is wonderful as Cathy, the caring mother who is living life from day to day, constantly in a state of fear and worry as to what will happen to her family, and Ray Brooks plays the part of the more laid-back Reg perfectly. I was also very impressed with the acting from the incidental cast members, as it truly comes across as if they are real people going through real difficulties, being interviewed for a TV programme - but, it is all acting, because this is a play....not a documentary.
The social importance of Cathy Come Home played a crucial part during the 1960s in drawing attention to issues surrounding poverty, overcrowding, homelessness and the insensitivity of various officials towards those experiencing insurmountable problems in their lives.
My own - and possibly controversial - opinion is that despite being warned of what could happen to them if they didn't pay their rent (bearing in mind Reg lost his job due to incurring an injury), Cathy and Reg were a little irresponsible which perhaps arose from them trusting the system too much, and continuing to add to their family after it became apparent that they could end up homeless. However, the system did let Cathy and Reg and people like them, down very badly in that various promises were not delivered and there was little or no communication to advise the couple on what their rights were. For instance, Cathy and Reg believed that they were on a list to be re-housed in a new, modern estate when it had been built, yet they weren't informed that they would lose their place on the waiting list if they didn't renew it, together with them being disqualified if Reg didn't manage to find another job.
A lot of prejudices to certain sections of society are uncovered in Cathy Come Home. We see Afro-Caribbean and Irish people being refused accommodation by landlords/landladies simply because of who they are, and at the time there were no laws in place to prevent this kind of discrimination. Another group of people who encountered the same problems were married couples or single mothers, both with children.
These mothers, along with those who were married yet where the state had separated them from their husbands, were sent to women's shelters where they were harshly and unfairly treated by the staff, eventually and in most cases having their children ruthlessly snatched away from them by social workers.
Regardless of how anybody views what are the rights and wrongs of most of these people's life choices which rendered them homeless, there is no doubt that the state's way of dealing with the problems - especially regarding care and concern of the children - was grossly insensitive, and in a lot of cases, downright cruel.
Cathy Come Home was one of the most-watched programmes on TV during the 1960s, and has since gone down as a crucially important piece of drama which increased social awareness to the point where a major re-think was put into operation as to how we as a nation deal with the plight of people stricken with poverty and homelessness.
As to how relevant the message contained within the play is for today's way of coping with the issues highlighted, I am unsure...but I do feel that various officials such as social workers, have adopted a far more caring and sensitive approach to their charges. All the same though, Cathy Come Home is a raw, moving drama of a young couple's struggle to keep a roof over their heads and their family together, in the face of great adversity.
Cathy Come Home has over the decades gone down as one of the most important dramatic productions in the sense of it drawing attention to anomalies in our society which needed urgent attention and profound change....at least some improvement to our welfare system was subsequently brought about, and that can only be a good thing....but, was it enough? I'm not sure. I do feel it's true that the officials who were dealing with Cathy and Reg's situation gave sound advice, but it was delivered in a grossly uncaring, unsympathetic fashion, to the point where the couple had no choice in their own future.....also, there was no necessary follow-through of information.
If you have a sound social conscience coupled with an interest of how things in the darker areas of life were during the 'swinging 60s', you I'm sure will find Cathy Come Home a penetrating, moving drama which is very well acted...a play which disposes of the happier, more carefree side of the 1960s, showing what was happening on the other side of the fence.
In summary, Cathy Come Home still is relevant to this day, even with the historic facts and situation being of that era rather than the one in which we now live, and makes a marvellous job of highlighting topics such as prejudice, 'them and us', situations, class differences, insensitivity, officialdom and much more.
At the time of writing, Cathy Come Home can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £6.97 to £17.30
Used: from £5.99 to £17.90
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading:
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~