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Edna the Inebriate Woman (1971)


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!

Ageing, homeless, jobless and penniless, Edna wanders country roads with her few possessions wrapped in polythene bags. Arriving at a small town, she begs admittance to a hostel. The attendant is reluctant at first, but relents for one night, disinfecting Edna's clothes while she showers. When she is refused admittance to a residential clinic, Edna moves on.

When she finds no welcome elsewhere, Edna spends the night in a dilapidated old building, exchanging tales of the road with another woman. A trip to the Ministry of Social Security doesn't get Edna anywhere, but she gets a meal at a soup kitchen. She spends the night with a community of tramps living under some arches.

A foreign woman smuggles Edna into a hostel, where she sleeps under a bed. But in the night she is found and thrown out. When she is refused an advance from Social Security, Edna gets angry, and is sent to a women's psychiatric ward. Another women, Sarah, asks her for her pills, and Edna gives her them. At mealtime, she makes a scene, complaining about the fish. Afterwards, she is forced to take a pill, but spits it out when the nurse isn't looking. Later, she is sedated and given electro-convulsive therapy. Edna discovers that Sarah has died from an overdose. When the doctor threatens to discharge her, Edna shuts herself in the kitchen and turns on the gas oven. The psychiatrist offers her another week, but Edna leaves in a fit of pique.

She spends the night in a barn with two other tramps, but a policeman throws them out. In London, she is given some new clothing and a few pounds by a charity, but spurns the offer of a room. She is thrown out of a hostel for wetting the bed. Unsuccessful again at the Social Security, she is charged with being drunk and disorderly and receives a prison sentence.

Released from prison, Edna turns up in the middle of the night at Jesus Saves - a hostel in a suburban street run by Josie Quinn with the support of local nuns. Edna makes a scene, upsetting local residents, until she is allowed in. At Jesus Saves, Edna finds a kind of stability, and even cuts down her drinking. But at a public enquiry, local residents complain about the hostel. Edna makes a scene and has to be escorted from the room. She becomes delirious and remembers her childhood in Ireland: her violent father and the mother who abandoned her into an abusive children's home.

The enquiry delivers its verdict and gives notice that the hostel must be closed. Edna is distraught. But when the time comes to leave, she is resigned and stoic. She heads out back on the road, accompanied by another ex-Jesus Saves inmate. They walk together for a while, but then Edna sets off on her own once again.