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Review: Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky (2005)

Directed by: | 150 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Bryan Dick, , , Tony Haygarth, , , Philip Davis, Anthony O’Donnell, Richard O’Callaghan, Kathy Burke, , , Doreen Mantle, , Sid Mitchell , Ryan Cartwright, Geoffrey Streatfield, , Mossie Smith, , Ruth Sheen, , , Sally Alexander, , Ruth Funnell

‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’ exudes an air of melancholy. People try to make sense of their existence and fight with the courage of despair for their own place in the world. Many laws and practical objections stand in the way between their dreams and deeds.

The film ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’ is based on the book of the same name by Patrick Hamilton (1904-1962). Hamilton does not have a happy childhood. His father, heir to a great fortune that he wasted in his lifetime and author of several popular novels, pretends to be a veteran and lawyer and claims to be of aristocratic descent. In reality, he is a con man and snob, a bully who drinks too much and who fears his children and an admirer of Mussolini.

Hamilton has a strong bond with his mother. She is a failed actress who is forced to stay with her adulterous husband. She writes two unsuccessful novels under a pseudonym and, like her husband, is a heavy drinker. She takes full advantage of her possessiveness in her children: Hamilton, his sister (actress) and brother (just like Hamilton a writer, but less successful). Hamilton concludes two marriages. In the last years of his life, Hamilton is no longer productive. He is suffering from severe depression and liver disease that is likely the result of his excessive alcohol consumption.

Hamilton’s personal life is dominated by the intense and demanding relationships with his relatives and wives and by his drinking problems. All his life, he lives in rooms in small guesthouses and hotels, where he sees with horror and fascination the absurd reality and the lives of his pathetic fellow men, which form the basis of his mostly autobiographical work. The Midnight Bell, the first part of Hamilton’s trilogy, is an example of this. As a boy, Hamilton visits bars and pubs in the West End, meets a motley crew of bar staff, prostitutes and petty criminals, and falls obsessively in love with actress Connelly. Hamilton’s experiences are a model for bartender Bob, who falls in love with Jenny, a West End hooker, and loses sight of reality completely.

Part two, The Siege of Pleasure, focuses on Jenny’s life story. Jenny, who has just started working as a cook in Chiswick, falls into disrepair when other options arise to make a living. The car accident in The Siege of Pleasure is inspired by Hamilton’s own life. He is hit by a car, his face is disfigured. Because he is constantly aware of this, his relationships with women are even more difficult and his alcohol abuse is even greater.

In the third part of the trilogy, The Plains of Cement, barmaid Ella is silently in love with Bob. She sees with sorrow how Bob is dying from his obsession with Jenny. Her own life accelerates when an opportunity arises to leave for India as a nanny, a client of The Midnight Bell wooes her, and her stepfather, who will leave her a large sum of money, is dying.

Hamilton’s stories have no happy ending and none of his characters find happiness, but ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’ gives a beautiful picture of the weird teeming aquarium of the metropolis .

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