Sunday, 6 February 2011

Movie Review: To Sir with Love (1967)

I continued my foray into old movies last week, this time choosing from the Sidney Poitier collection. To Sir With Love is a 1967 movie starring Sidney Poitier, Christian Roberts and Judy Geeson. It also features the singer Lulu, who performed the movie's theme song. The movie, which is a drama set in the east end of London, is based on the autobiographical novel of the same title written by E.R. Braithwaite and published in 1959.

To Sir with Love is about a young black out-of-work engineer, Mark Thackeray, who gets a job in an east end school and is put in charge of a notorious final form class. The class is rowdy, disrespectful, and mildly racist. Mr. Thackeray gets mixed support from his staff room colleagues; some give him helpful advice, others seem bent on emphasising the hopelessness of his situation. The movie follows his attempts to instil discipline and self-respect into his class, while constantly looking for a way out of the school.

The acting from Poitier is strong as usual, even aggressive. He clearly portrays the paradox of the well educated black migrant, who is not all he appears to be on the surface. The supporting cast varies in strength, the cockney accent letting one or two down. In some ways this movie appears dated, but once you get used to the setting and time of filming, you can get truly immersed in the drama.

The theme song by Lulu was not to my taste, but I must admit, it has been stuck in my head for the last three days! I later discovered that the song "To Sir with Love" was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967, for five weeks!

After a shaky start, I quite enjoyed this movie because of the interesting storyline, which emphasised the basic teacher/student dynamic over the more obvious racial angle. If you don't mind watching classic movies that have not been digitally restored, you have a good chance of enjoying this movie. Otherwise, you might find the picture quality to be a deterrent. Overall, I'd give this one a 6.5 out of 10.

To Sir, With Love

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