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Home Sweet Home (1982)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Home Sweet Home (1982)
For Play For Today, BBC, tx. 16/3/1982, colour, 88 mins
DirectorMike Leigh
Production CompanyBBC
ProducerLouis Marks
Devised byMike Leigh
PhotographyRemi Adefarasin
MusicCarl Davis

Cast: Timothy Spall (Gordon Leach); Eric Richard (Stan); Tim Barker (Harold Fish); Kay Stonham (Hazel); Su Elliott (June); Frances Barber (Melody)

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Stan, Gordon and Harold work together as postmen. Their private lives become intermingled in more ways than they suspect.

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The sixth of Mike Leigh's productions for the BBC's Play for Today, Home Sweet Home (tx. 16/3/1982) has been described by critic Ray Carney as "Leigh's loneliest film". Although a plot revolving around three postmen and their housebound wives living on a housing estate in a working-class English village suggests symmetry and community. But as the ironic title suggests, and as the regular cross-cutting between the three couples at home conveys, it becomes apparent that the characters are all profoundly isolated.

Each copes with day-to-day life with his or her own emotional 'crutch': Harold lives in a bubble of endless prattle and juvenile jokes, which prevents him from connecting or empathising with anyone; June affirms her existence through an escapist world of romantic novels and soap-operas; Gordon takes refuge in food and alcohol; Hazel gains self-worth from continuously flirting with Stan and, later, excessively mothering Tina.

Stan is different, however. At the beginning, he seems to share the viewer's detachment, watching the nightmare of his co-workers' lives from afar. However, as the play progresses, he emerges as selfish, cynical and callous. His emotional disconnection is illustrated by the shirking of his responsibilities as a father to a teenager he no longer knows. But it is his almost brutal sexual encounter with Janice that most chillingly conveys his transformation. Significantly, Leigh cuts from their meeting at the laundrette to Janice dressing, omitting their lovemaking. It is only when she is leaving that he bothers to ask her name.

Stan is the film's loneliest character, seeking solace in transient affairs and, curiously, in the lyrics of Frank Sinatra's My Way', turning the song's positive implications on their heads. But Stan's obliviousness to this underlines Home Sweet Home's strongest message: that lack of self-knowledge is more wretched than the misunderstanding and even poor treatment of those we claim to love.

Shalini Chanda

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Video Clips
1. Stan and Janice (3:12)
2. Stan and June (3:04)
3. Stan and Tina (2:56)
4. I'll get me coat (2:37)
Production stills
Mike Leigh: The Guardian Interview (1983)
Davis, Carl (1936-)
Leigh, Mike (1943-)
Spall, Timothy (1957-)
Mike Leigh on TV
Play for Today (1970-84)