Poor Cow

Date: 27/09/2016 Times: 7:30 pm - 9:15 pm

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This is the second in our mini-season tribute to Ken Loach and is a BFI re-mastered edition, which Peter Bradshaw says ‘has to  be seen on the big screen’.

Shot in documentary style, this is the story of young mother Joy, ironically named and played by Loach favourite Carol White, who is forced to fend for herself when her brutal and uncaring husband, Tom, is put in jail.  Joy finds brief happiness with Tom’s criminal associate Dave, Terence Stamp, who proves kind and gentle when she moves in with him, but this relationship ends when he is also jailed, and Joy is left to raise her young son alone in squalid circumstances.

Loach is extremely matter-of-fact in depicting the various degradations Joy suffers, always emphasising the idea that she never seems truly upset or depressed by her sorry lot.  The tragedy of the film is that Joy has never truly experienced happiness, so stifled misery is her default setting. Her victories in life are extremely small ones.

This is interesting for Loach because it’s an example of a time before he became an explicitly political filmmaker. The film is a character study more than a narrative drama, and the details of Joy’s existence become implicitly rather than explicitly political.  Deep-set misogyny which runs through all levels of society is one of the key themes, as Joy is used and abused by men of all stripes throughout the film.  Despite its scruffy scene and downhill theme, Poor Cow is not really another of England’s angry proletarian tragedies.  The film tells its story with a humanity that is never sentimental.

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Poor Cow

Year: 1967

Country: UK

Cert: 15

Duration: 101 mins

Dir: Ken Loach

'One of the best of the kitchen-sinks'


Venue: William Loveless Hall