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Look Back in Anger (1959)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Jimmy Porter, an embittered young man, plays trumpet in a jazz club. After the performance he returns home and embraces his sleeping wife Alison.

In the morning Jimmy and Alison and Cliff, their Welsh lodger, sit around and talk. Jimmy continually taunts Alison about her privileged background and derides her family. He pushes Cliff into the ironing board, causing Alison to burn her arm with the iron. When she sees a doctor, it emerges that she is pregnant but has not told Jimmy.

Jimmy and Cliff work on a market sweet stall, where they are enemies of the market inspector, Hurst. The former stall owner, Ma Tanner, arrives and she and Jimmy go for a drink. She set him up with the stall and they have a close relationship. Alison arrives to tell Jimmy about the pregnancy but before she can say anything he accuses her of being snobbish to Ma Tanner. Ma Tanner asks him what he wants from life as they tend her husband's grave. Jimmy replies that he wants everything and nothing.

At home, Jimmy makes up with Alison, but is filled with fury when he discovers her actress friend Helena is coming to stay. When she arrives Jimmy belittles her in a similar way to Alison but finds her more aggressive in response.

At the stall, Jimmy and Cliff defend an Indian trader, Kapoor, from the attentions of Hurst. They go with Alison to see Helena rehearse her play and disrupt the set with horseplay. Helena encourages Alison to leave and clashes with Cliff, who says he loves them both and wants to help them resolve their problems.

Jimmy receives a phone call from the hospital saying that Ma Tanner has had a stroke. Alison refuses to accompany him. He remembers how his father died when he was ten. Jimmy goes to the hospital and Ma Tanner dies. Meanwhile Alison's father, Colonel Redfern, comes to collect her. Alison compares his and Jimmy's approach to the world and suggests they are equally lost.

Jimmy returns to the flat and Helena shows him a note from Alison, telling him about the pregnancy. He abuses her and she slaps him. Suddenly they start kissing and make love. They start an affair but Cliff does not take to Helena in the way he did to Alison. He decides it would be better if he left.

At the market Jimmy defends Kapoor from racists but then finds that he is being forced out through pressure from his fellow stallholders.

Jimmy goes to see Cliff off at the station with Helena. They see Alison in the station buffet and she tells him that she has lost the baby. Alison tells Helena that she will not come between her and Jimmy but Helena says that she feels it is now over.

Jimmy and Helena go back to the flat and she tells him she is leaving. He returns to the station and finds Alison still there. He taunts Alison for her neutral response to life, but when she shows the depths of her pain over the baby he is unable to cope and breaks down. She ends up comforting him and they seem to be moving towards reconciliation.