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Wish You Were Here (1987)

Loosely based on the early life of notorious Streatham brothel madam Cynthia Payne, David Leland’s bittersweet directorial debut is an introspective character study of an irrepressible teenager that refuses to be crushed by her colourless surroundings.

Sixteen-year-old Emily Lloyd runs riot in her auspicious screen debut, whilst Tom Bell is seedily impressive in this well-observed postcard of English nostalgia.

Set in an austere post-war Brighton – although the film was shot in Worthing and Bognor Regis – Lynda (Lloyd), a teenage girl troubled by her own inner demons, yearns for her mother, five years dead, and rebels against her emotionally sterile father, Hubert (Geoffrey Hutchings) and the strait-laced residents of their drab seaside town.

She is, as she says often, “bloody bored”. So she resorts to infantile shock tactics – she hoists up her skirt and shows her knickers to the local bus crews, she bends over and flashes her backside at her neighbours, and she uses a lot of rude words. All the time. Very loudly. Her favourite insult is “Up yer bum”.

Lynda attempts to retain several jobs including employment at a hair salon, bus station and hotel, but time and again she’s sacked due to her insolence, provocative clothes and foul language.

Exceptionally immoral and with a hunger to be loved, Lynda embarks on a series of sexual explorations, notably with Dave (Jesse Birdsall), a young bus conductor, and an affair with lecherous family friend Eric (Tom Bell) – promiscuity, at a time when contraception was primitive and abortion illegal, that eventually lands her in dire circumstances when she becomes pregnant by Eric.

Unemployed and disowned by her father due to her self-destructive rambunctious, a defiant Lynda has some very crucial decisions to make about her future.

She rejects the options of abortion or adoption and ends up as an unmarried mother. Head held high, she wheels her pram through the local park in front of all the gob-smacked townsfolk. That’s it.

Emily Lloyd is the daughter of British actor Roger Lloyd Pack (Only Fools & Horses) and her mother used to be Harold Pinter’s secretary.

Lynda Mansell
Emily Lloyd
Eric

Tom Bell
Dave

Jesse Birdsall
Mrs Parfitt

Clare Clifford
Valerie

Barbara Durkin
Hubert Mansell

Geoffrey Hutchings
Gillian

Charlotte Barker
Margaret Mansell

Chloe Leland

Director
David Leland