Four stars is perhaps a tad generous for a film that lacks the punch, energy & emotional weight of its peers. However, Larry Olivier is triumphant as the pathetic & tragic Archie Rice. The world revolves around Archie meaning the family politics don't quite add up to anything substantial. Saying that, Osborne's script is startling prescient in its assessment of forgotten seaside towns & a faltering empire.
I've always regarded Olivier as a bit of a ham so he was well cast in this. But what really spoilt it for me was that Roger Livesey, born 1906, was playing the father of Olivier, who was born only one year later in 1907. Apart from becoming a father at the age of one, Livesey would also have become grandfather to Joan Plowright, born 1937, at the tender age of 31.
This film, given the immense amount of combined talent, was just ok for me. Writing is good, but something about the film just fell flat. Written by one of the pioneers of the kitchen sink drama, I cant help but feel like this one is less essential than others (Long Distance Runner, Sporting Life, etc). Livesy has a great line about sleeping with ugly women: "you dont view the mantlepiece when poking the fire". 2.5