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It is a bit dated and has quite a lot of local patina on it, but the film shows social muscle. A boy put into a juvenile reeducation home (or something like it, an old castle with high walls, in any case) for petty theft and being rebellious, finds his inner calm in running. He runs and thinks and feels the spirit of freedom, while he is actually the toy of the institution’s bosses, the playball of the very class struggle that put him in there in the first place. Class struggle in England’s 1960s was serious, and cruel, but you need to remind yourself of that when watching the film, as it does not feel completely when watching it today (even though you can still feel it when talking with Brits about their family history, there is a class-consciousness like in few other places I have encountered).

When you are young, there are only two ways of dealing with it: be on the rich side and enjoy it, or be on the poor side and hate it. This hate and the ensuing actions to project the hate on the despicable others led to a torn society, one where every action is only measured in terms of compliance of rebellion. That boy has time to think about this during his runs, and despite the film being usually very calm and undramatic, we can feel an escalation coming. In an unexpected way, but one that is consistent with what he is: a boy of a family that is used to running.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/loneliness_of_the_long_distance_runner/

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