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Hard Labour (1973)


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!

Jim Thornley returns home from his night shift as a security guard at a toy warehouse. His grown-up daughter Ann is just getting out of bed. Jim sits while his wife, Mrs Thornley, cleans the house. She travels to Mrs Stone's house, where she works as a char. Mrs Stone sits while Mrs Thornley cleans. Mrs Stone is inconvenienced by her husband Sid's unexpected return from work.

Jim complains about neighbour Mrs Rigby smoking but, unlike his subdued wife, Mrs Rigby answers back. That evening, Jim complains about the sandwiches prepared by his wife for last night's shift, and Ann asks why her shoes have not been taken to the cobblers. When Ann tells Jim not to pry into her private conversation with her friend Julie, Jim leaves in a temper, complaining that women are all the same. Later, the tallyman affably agrees to replace Jim's too-tight boots. Jim puts his boots back on for work, and tells Mrs Thornley to shut up when she worries that they will not be replaced if he gets them dirty.

Mrs Stone pays Mrs Thornley's wages. Taking Mrs Stone's washing to the launderette, Mrs Thornley helps another woman to operate a washing machine. At the warehouse, Shore pays Jim's wages and mentions a previously reliable security guard who was sacked for sleeping on duty. Shore has been invited to an event in London to receive a medal for five years' service and to stay in a good hotel. When Jim suggests that Shore might have more fun without his wife, Shore complains about Jim's uniform.

Taxi firm owner Naseem asks Ann to the pictures. Later, he helps Julie to arrange an abortion, warning that it is dangerous and expensive. Julie conceived the child to a married man.

In the pub on Saturday night, Jim feels sorry for a friend who lives alone and does not have his meals cooked or someone beside him in bed. Mrs Thornley goes to bed with a hot water bottle and, as a Catholic, prays with her rosary beads. Jim returns home when she is asleep and forces himself on her. Because of his night shifts, Saturday is the only night they sleep together.

Sunday. Ann complains about her father's table manners and he complains about her smoking at the table. They argue over each other's non-attendance at Mass. Mrs Thornley visits their son Eddie, who lives on a more modern estate with wife Veronica. Veronica criticises Eddie's table manners. Mrs Thornley moves to clear away the plates but Veronica stops her.

Harassed, Mrs Stone donates games and clothes to a jumble sale, carried to the car by Mrs Thornley. Later, Mrs Stone complains about an incomplete food delivery. At home, Mrs Thornley is also harassed into providing second hand items by a Catholic Sister, who complains about the dirtiness of a proffered wall plate. Next door, Mrs Rigby refuses to let the Sister in. At Naseem's A1 Taxis, Ann worries about Julie. Naseem argues that Ann would not get into such a situation and that he would look after her.

Jim and Eddie drink in the pub. Eddie lives too far away from his old area to play local sport. Meanwhile, Ann and Mrs Thornley discuss childbirth. Ann discovers that she caused her mother backache in the womb by laying on her sciatic nerve, and that her mother was in labour for one day with Eddie and then two days with her: Mrs Thornley says that women must suffer to bring children into the world. Ann has been holding Eddie and Veronica's wedding photograph. Veronica arrives and squabbles with Ann. Later, Jim complains yet again about the rheumatism in his shoulder and a family argument develops over going to Mass, but Mrs Thornley quietly reads her newspaper. Later, she rubs her husband's rheumatic and hairy shoulders.

At Confession, Mrs Thornley says that she does not love people enough. She struggles to articulate her feelings. She does not like touching her husband and accepts the priest's suggestion that she feels guilty. The priest, reading his newspaper during their conversation, tells her to pray and do penance. At home, Mrs Thornley cleans her windows.