Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Glenda Jackson Films
- John Schlesinger Films
- Love Triangle
- Peter Finch Films
Sunday Bloody Sunday (scripted by film critic Penelope Gilliatt) was director John Schlesinger’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed success with Midnight Cowboy (1969), as well as earlier notable titles, including Billy Liar (1963), Darling (1965), and Far From the Madding Crowd (1967). SBS is often cited as his most personal film, given its inclusion of a gay, Jewish male protagonist (Schlesinger himself was gay and Jewish); indeed, it’s Schlesinger and Gilliatt’s sensitive, open-minded treatment of sexuality in general that most distinguishes this unusual love triangle tale, in which both “ends” of the triangle (Finch and Jackson) freely share its “point” (Head) with others, yet struggle with the implications of such a knowing compromise. For Finch — who seems personally at ease with his sexuality, yet hides it from his tradition-bound family — this means being unable to count on Head as a travel partner to a much-dreamed-of trip to Italy; for Jackson, it means (among other things) giving up on the dubious prospect of having children of her own (portrayed as a decidedly hectic lifestyle choice through the anti-bourgeois household run by Windsor and Pickles, whose very young children smoke pot and take on more responsibilities than one might feel comfortable with).
Schlesinger situates Finch and Jackson’s sticky romantic scenario within the cultural milieu of early-1970s Britain; to that end, there’s a sense of disconnectedness to some of the contextualizing and/or supporting scenes — I’m still not sure what the significance is, for instance, of a dramatic incident involving a dog and an accident. However, it’s the central performers and their romantic dilemmas which really ground the film, as we watch to see how Finch and Jackson will handle their growing realization that the America-bound Head may soon become an even less permanent part of their lives. Indeed, there’s an undeniable sense of sadness and ambiguity to both Finch and Jackson’s plights, giving one pause to reflect on what, exactly, one “should” be looking for in life and in romance. Are Finch and Jackson compromising their chances for a more fulfilling and “stable” relationship with someone else? Or are they smart to accept the limited happiness they have with Head? These are decidedly sticky questions with no easy answers, and Sunday Bloody Sunday respectfully acknowledges that reality.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Authentic performances by the three romantic leads: Finch, Jackson (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in his Alternate Oscars), and Head
- Fine supporting performances
Yes, for its historical relevance as an early film to treat “open” sexual arrangements with candor and respect.
- Historically Relevant
- Important Director