Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Block, The (1972)


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!

Tenants of Chaucer House in Southwark, London, set up barricades in protest at the local council's failure to re-house them. The poor quality housing in the block is intended for short-term accommodation, but many of the residents have been there for years.

Unemployed tenant John Richards is the leader of the tenants' association and speaks on their behalf. 22-year-old Edie, another tenant, has two children in care and is about to have an abortion because she isn't prepared to bring up a child in the squalid conditions at Chaucer House. The funeral of an eight-week old baby is held, born to parents aged 16 and 17.

The Director of Social Services speaks of council tenants and the "need to instil desire to pull themselves up by their boot strings". The cramped and dilapidated living conditions of several families are shown, and their attempts to be re-housed are followed.

John Richards has fallen behind with his rent; he has five children and feels that it is a choice between food or rent. The council takes him to court. The magistrate is unsympathetic to his situation.

One of the families is pleased to be offered a house in Peckham, although it has no bathroom. Another family is offered a house after waiting 17 years. A woman explains how her benefits have been taken away because she has been cohabiting; social workers watched her flat and saw that a man stayed at her flat for three nights.

Tenants demonstrate at the flats in protest at the council's failure to close the block as promised. A woman, who has recently had an abortion, haemorrhages and is carried out on a stretcher, a cigarette in her hand.