It Always Rains on Sunday (PG)


Before Kind Hearts and Coronets made his name, Robert Hamer (1911-1963) directed this noirish melodrama of 24 hours in the life of an East End neighbourhood.

The year is 1947, the place Bethnal Green, the weather incorrigible – rain all day. Hamer catches the postwar mood quite superbly, a world of rationing, bombsites and depression: that Blitz spirit has vanished.

The multi-stranded story centres on a woman (Googie Withers) whose disaffection with her husband is sharpened when an old lover (John McCallum) turns up, escaped from prison and in need of shelter. Without telling anyone, she hides him in her bedroom while her stepchildren hover dangerously below.

Meanwhile the drab Sunday ambles on in street markets, music shops, dancehalls, the pub, where a copper (Jack Warner) might run into three local crooks trying to fence a load of roller-skates.

In its alternation of the humdrum and the melodramatic the film looks forward to the familiarities of EastEnders, though in its portrayal of working-class routine it looks back as far as Sickert and his brown studies of domestic unease.

In the lead, Withers conveys a poignant sense of trappedness, her face a stiff mask of thwarted desire. The film is showing in the Dark Ealing season at the BFI.