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Friday, 22 July 2011

Family values in "Cathy Come Home"


A few days ago, rather tired in the evening, I watched the classic film “Cathy Come Home” by Ken Loach. As with many of his films, it was designed to bring about social change, and to some degree succeeded. It is a message about homelessness, unemployment, and the right of parents to have a family life and to keep their children; the heartbreaking final scene shows Cathy having her children forcibly taken from her. (It is in the "gritty and realistic" genre.)

Of course, the message about homelessness is still relevant (see That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill passim.) What caught my attention, though, was the message concerning family life that is an important part of the film’s social comment. At the beginning of the film, Cathy and Reg meet and fall in love with each other. At one point, Reg asks "Have some babies, Cath?" She answers "Yeah, I'd like that." The next scene is their wedding reception. They do then have children.

After Reg gets injured, everything falls apart financially, they have to move on from various places and eventually Cathy goes in desperation to a hostel which does not allow husbands; she protests that the children need their father to be with them. Later she complains that her husband is becoming (unwillingly) distant from her because of the breakup of the family that they have to endure.

The film was made in 1966, just before these values began to be relentlessly attacked and purged from the culture. In those days, it was a gritty, hard-hitting, left wing docudrama. (Abortion was legalised in England in 1967.)

You can watch the whole film (77 min) on YouTube (embedding is disabled.)
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