A novice teacher faces a class of rowdy, undisciplined working-class teenagers in this classic film that reflected some of the problems and fears that existed among young people in the 1960s. Sidney Poitier gives one of his finest performances as Mark Thackeray, an out-of-work engineer who turns to teaching in London's tough East End. The graduating class, led by Denham (Christian Roberts), Pamela (Judy Geeson) and Barbara (Lulu, who also sings the hit title song), sets out to destroy Thackeray as they did his predecessor, by breaking his spirit. But Thackeray, no stranger to hostility, meets the challenge by treating the students as young adults who will soon enter a work force where they must stand or fall on their own. When offered an engineering job, Thackeray must decide if he wants to stay.
Great British 60s Social Drama
- To Sir, with Love review by GI
Surprisingly a huge hit in the US no doubt due to the draw of Sidney Poitier who stars as Mark Thackeray. He's a newly qualified engineer but unable to find a job in his chosen career he takes up a position as a teacher in a rundown East End school inhabited by unruly and under privileged teenagers. Finding it impossible to engage his class in the normal subjects he comes up with a bold plan of treating them as adults and teaching them life skills. Considered a quite risqué film at the time of its release it may seem quite dated today with its relatively tame swearing and themes of sexual awakening. It is however a wonderful film about the eroding state of education in Britain and the loss of opportunities for young people. The film tries to highlight the young persons's love of pop music, and even pop star Lulu has a role and sings the title song. But this is Poitier's film showcasing his ability. He plays a convincing London teacher here and when you consider his other big roles he is such a capable and intriguing actor and one to really admire. Interestingly, whilst there are some minor approaches to racism, obviously widespread in 60s Britain, it's hardly touched upon in the film. There's a host of familiar actors including Judy Gleeson, Suzy Kendall and a first film role for Patricia Routledge. A key British film of the 1960s and worth seeking out if you've never seen it.
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