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Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1986)

Courtesy of Channel Four Television

Main image of Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1986)
DirectorAlan Clarke
Production CompanyUmbrella Entertainment, British Screen, Channel Four
ProducerSandy Lieberson
Screenplay and original playsAndrea Dunbar
Director of PhotographyIvan Strasburg
MusicMichael Kamen

Cast: Siobhan Finneran (Rita); Michelle Holmes (Sue); George Costigan (Bob); Lesley Sharp (Michelle); Willie Ross (Sue's father); Kulvinder Ghir (Aslam)

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Two teenage girls from a Bradford housing estate have an affair with a married man from a smarter part of town.

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The urban decay of Bradford's Buttershaw estate provides the setting for Alan Clarke's Rita, Sue and Bob Too. The story of a married man's illicit affair with two teenage babysitters, the film is part sex comedy and part critique of the social division of 1980s Britain.

Set during Rita and Sue's last few weeks at school, with nothing but the dole queue to look forward to when they leave, the girls find excitement on the reclining seats of middle-aged lothario Bob's car. Unlike Rita and Sue, Bob and his family live in a modern house on the 'nicer' side of town. The film uses the differing domestic locations to highlight the growing gap between Thatcher's home-owning nouveau riche and those left behind in sink estates, victims of the poverty trap.

Adapted from a series of plays by Andrea Dunbar and based on her own experiences growing up on the Buttershaw estate, much of the film's humour is tempered with a sense of desperation. Clarke treats the alcoholism, racism and domestic violence that provide a backdrop to Rita and Sue's world in typically matter-of-fact fashion while subtle observations of modern life - like Bob's nosey neighbour who calls the police because he sees an Asian boy in his affluent neighbourhood - are deftly comic.

With elements of both the social realist films of the 1960s and the bawdy Confessions... series of the 1970s, Rita, Sue and Bob Too was released in the mid-1980s when the fear of an AIDS epidemic was at its height and its comic treatment of promiscuity flew in the face of various initiatives aimed at discouraging casual sex amongst the young. Co-financed by Channel 4, Rita, Sue and Bob Too is one of only three Alan Clarke films made specifically for cinema release.

Justin Hobday

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Video Clips
1. Bob's seduction (2:46)
2. Multiple divorces (2:09)
3. Confrontation (3:16)
4. Sue and Aslam (3:35)
Production stills
'Beat' Girl (1959)
Clarke, Alan (1935-1990)
Ghir, Kulvinder
Channel 4 and Film
Social Realism
'One of Thatcher's Children'