Saturday, 8 October 2016
Four in the Morning (Anthony Simmons) on London Live tonight
The late Anthony Simmons' Four in the Morning is on London Live tonight at 8pm. In one sense this is a slight piece, but only if you're expecting the cinematic equivalent of a novel rather than the poetic short story which this seems to be. It offers a glimpse into two relationships, one soured by the arrival of a child, and the other perhaps about to blossom, although one of the partners has had such a bad experience earlier that it is unlikely to be smooth going. These stories are framed by the discovery of a woman's body in the Thames and the subsequent cleaning and storing of the body.
It's certainly not a thriller and there is no epiphany for the characters in either of the two tales; as Jude (Judi Dench) says they are no further forward by the end of the night about what to do, and the short bursts of happiness and unease in the case of the other relationship don't provide much in the way of closure either.
But the experience is far from frustrating, provided you accept that it's more a snapshot than an intensive examination. And bear in mind snapshots can suggest a larger truth. The presence of the corpse helps make sense of the other two narratives: seize life, is the implication, even though we have seen how difficult that is and the film provides no easy answers. The final shot is of people crossing Waterloo Bridge to work in the morning with, we can assume, their own tales of frustration and despair - but they are persisting nevertheless.
There are some superb moments. The acting is terrific throughout, but Norman Rodway as Judi Dench's husband and Joe Melia as his partner in drink make a particularly notable double act (playing characters called Norman and Joe, incidentally). When, towards the end, the corpse is being cleaned up there is a genial workplace conversation which seems reassuring, not callous. And there is location shooting throughout which imparts a documentary feel and helps place these characters firmly in a recognisable reality. This love of London as a location can also be seen in Anthony Simmons' earlier short, Bow Bells, included on the 2008 Odeon DVD release, and in his later, highly recommended film with Peter Sellers, The Optimists of Nine Elms, which I have written about here.