This Sporting Life

  • Directors: Lindsay Anderson
  • Producers: Karel Reisz
  • Writers: David Storey
  • Genres: Drama, Sport
  • Actors: Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts, Alan Badel, William Hartnell

Filmed in Wakefield, the film is about a bitter young Yorkshire coal miner, Frank Machin (Harris). Following a nightclub altercation in which he takes on the captain of the local rugby club and smacks a couple of the others, he is recruited by the team’s manager, who sees profit in his aggressive streak.

Although somewhat initially uncoordinated at rugby, he impresses the team’s owner, Gerald Weaver (Badel), with his spirit and brutality of his playing style during the trial. He is signed up to the top team as a loose forward and impresses all with his aggressive forward play. He often punches or elbows the opposition players throughout the game.

Off the field, Frank is less successful. His recently widowed landlady, Margaret Hammond (Roberts), uses him for sex but in her grief she cannot give him love, and he leaves after a row. Weaver and his predatory wife treat him as a commodity, to be used and discarded. When he finds that Margaret is in hospital, he goes and tries to give her solace, but she dies. In the end he is seen as “just a great ape on a football field”, vulnerable to the ravages of time and injury.

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