John Schlesinger was hot after Midnight Cowboy (1969) and this 1971 love triangle drew hyperbolic praise.
Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson were put on the emotional rack by Schlesinger: As homosexual Jewish doctor Daniel Hirsh and divorced employment counsellor Alex Greville they are both in love with the same young man (although, as the object of their affections was the lumpish Murray Head, it was hard to see what all the fuss is about!)
Bob Elkin (Head) divides himself between the two, but he gives himself to neither of them. They know that they must accept him on his own terms or lose him. Hirsh, especially, is trying to reconcile himself to the belief that half a loaf is better than none.
Alex is not so sure. An aggressive woman who has never found fulfilment in her relationships with men, she is tormented by the knowledge that she must share Bob with someone else. But she still grabs at the chance to spend weekends with him and has temporarily come to terms with Bob’s decree that he is giving her all of himself that he can spare, and she mustn’t ask him for more.
Clearly, there can be no winners in such a triangle, and Bob finally decides he must escape. He breaks off his affairs by fleeing to America, leaving Alex and the doctor behind to mend their lives as best they can.
The film has an excellent script by Penelope Gilliatt and a fine performance from Finch as the smitten doctor – a part he took over at short notice from Ian Bannen.
Schlesinger’s camera lingers balefully over the middle-class milieu in which the protagonists move, and will no doubt provide sociologists of the future with an anatomy of the British bourgeoisie in the 1970s.
Dr Daniel Hirsh