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Sudden Wrench, A (1982)


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!

Christine is a bored, middle-aged housewife, fed up with staying at home doing the housework. One morning her feminist daughter Polly tries to get her to go to a women's consciousness-raising meeting at her school. Alone at home, Christine pours herself a strong drink and calls a radio phone-in about the problem of communicating with her family, admitting she is depressed. The radio counsellor tells her to go out into the world again. She decides to take up her daughter's suggestion, attending a meeting entitled 'Women Against Apathy'. That night Christine thinks over what the speaker said about change starting in the home.

Next day she decides to set about installing new radiators in the house, a task which her husband has been putting off. She starts by wrestling with the workmate on which she struggles to cut pipes and continues working into the evening, while the family eat a takeaway. That night she tells husband Terry she doesn't want his opinion or help, but when he shows an interest in what she has done she relents and agrees to let him help.

Christine continues working on the new heating system, but Polly refuses to help with the cooking, having a meeting on Angola to go to. Finally Christine lets water into the system, while they all let air out of the radiators. With fingers crossed she ignites the boiler. They celebrate their success with champagne.

The following day, however, Christine is back doing the housework. While out shopping she sees an advert for a plumber's mate and goes to a building site, where the foreman reluctantly takes her on. On her first day she feels like an outsider as the men laugh at her difficulties on the job and play cards together at lunch while she eats her sandwiches alone. When she sees her son David with his schoolmates he ignores her, but he later defends her against Polly's criticism that equality is about more than getting a job.

When the site architect tells the foreman they've installed the wrong radiators, Christine gets him out of a fix by working out the heat-loss calculations that night, while Polly cooks dinner. Christine's efforts win her acceptance by the men and she eats her lunch with a smile.