Kind of Loving (A) (TV)
R2 - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (20th August 2009).
The Show


Produced for Ganada Television in 1982, this ten-part series is an adaptation of Stan Barstow’s trilogy of novels about Vic Brown, A Kind of Loving (1960), The Watchers on the Shore (1966) and The Right True End (1976). John Schlesinger’s 1962 film adaptation of A Kind of Loving, starring Alan Bates as Vic, is regarded as one of the key films associated with the British ‘New Wave’ cinema of the early 1960s. This 1982 television adaptation paints on a broader canvas, also offering a screen presentation of Barstow’s two sequels to his highly-regarded first novel. Although Schlesinger’s film adaptation of A Kind of Loving is moody, Barstow’s two sequels were increasingly downbeat, and this is mirrored in the structure of this television adaptation.


Set in the Yorkshire town of Cresley, A Kind of Loving begins on Boxing Day of 1957. The Brown family, including miner Mr Brown (Robert Keegan) and his wife (Constance Chapman), are preparing for the marriage of their schoolteacher daughter Christine (Cherith Mellor). The Browns also have two sons: factory draughtsman Victor (Clive Wood) and Jim, who plans to study medicine. Eventually, romance blossoms between Vic and Ingrid Rothwell (Joanne Whalley), a typist for the same firm for whom Vic works. However, after a while Vic becomes frustrated with Ingrid and tries to give her the brush-off: he is attracted to Ingrid but not in love with her. When Mr Van Huyten (John Gabriel), the manager of the music shop in which Vic works on Saturdays, offers Vic a full-time job with the suggestion of advancement, Vic takes the opportunity and, in the process, loses contact with Ingrid. However, not long after Vic’s twenty-first birthday, Ingrid tracks him down and gives him a present of an expensive cigarette case. Vic and Ingrid rekindle their affair, and Vic tries to persuade Ingrid to have sex with him. Eventually, Ingrid consents; but Vic bottles out of buying condoms and Ingrid falls pregnant. Facing the disapproval of Ingrid’s father (Fred Pearson) and snobbish mother (Clare Kelly), Vic is railroaded into marrying Ingrid: acknowledging that he doesn’t love her, Vic hopes that ‘A Kind of Loving’ will develop between them. Vic and Ingrid move in with Ingrid’s parents.


However, Vic finds Ingrid’s mother to be overbearing, and when Ingrid suffers a miscarriage Vic seizes his chance to escape from the lifestyle he has come to resent. Nevertheless, burdened with guilt he eventually returns to his wife and, together, they move into a flat above the one in which Vic’s sister Christine lives with her husband David. When Van Huyten dies, Vic expects to take over the music shop. However, Van Huyten has left the shop to the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund. A former colleague, Albert Conroy (Neil Phillips), offers Vic a new job as a draughtsman in Romford, Essex. Vic takes the job, living in Romford during the week and travelling back to his hometown at weekends. Matters become more complicated when Vic begins an affair with Donna Pennyhouse (Susan Penhaligon), an actress.


Episodes one to four of this television adaptation are set between Boxing Day of 1957 and April of 1959, and follow the events of Barstow’s A Kind of Loving. Episode four ends with Vic deciding to return to Ingrid and rent the flat above Christine and David’s, in the hope that he will learn to love Ingrid over time. Episodes five to eight, detailing the events depicted in The Watchers on the Shore, take place between October of 1962 and August of 1963. Episode five begins with Vic and Ingrid having settled into their flat; Christine and David have an infant son, Bobby, who Vic appears to see as a substitute for his own son, who was lost when Ingrid suffered her first miscarriage. These episodes end with Vic’s abandonment of his marriage and the death of one of Vic’s colleagues. The final two episodes take place in 1972 and adapt The Right True End. These episode find Vic working in London. Vic is having an affair with a married woman; his relationship with Donna resurfaces when Donna takes a high-profile stage role.

The episodes track changes within British society between the late 1950s and the early 1970s: Barstow’s novels, and this television adaptation, offer a perspective on shifting attitudes towards love, marriage and sexuality. Whereas in 1957-9 Vic finds himself pressured into marrying Ingrid after getting her pregnant and sex is a topic to be discussed either in heated arguments or between young men in the pub, in the early 1960s Vic embarks on an affair with Donna. Donna is a young woman who is very aware and unashamed of her own sexuality: she has lived, unmarried, with a man before her affair with Vic, and when Vic expresses amazement at this fact, Donna accuses him of possession ‘parochial’ attitudes towards sex. Donna is also a very modern independent woman, declaring that she ‘can’t live in anybody’s pocket’: for Donna, sex is not necessarily associated with love. This is a fact that Vic finds hard to accept, having spent the early years of his relationship with Ingrid hoping that ‘A Kind of Loving’ would grow between them and legitimate the sexual desire that led to Ingrid’s pregnancy.


One of the key characters in the text is Albert Conroy: slightly older than Vic, Conroy is initially depicted as a bully who teases Vic about his relationship with Ingrid. However, Vic eventually realises that the outwardly-brash Conroy has hidden depths and discovers that Conroy was once married, in a relationship that mirrors Vic’s experiences with Ingrid. Throughout the series, Conroy offers Vic advice: one of Conroy’s sagest pieces of advice comes early in the series, when Conroy tells Vic that ‘The trouble with you, Brownie, is that you knuckle under too easy’.

As if in demonstration of this, in the first few episodes Vic easily gives in to the moral pressure surrounding him and the guilt and shame attached to sex. When Vic asks his blusterful friend where to buy condoms, Vic’s friend tells him to ask for them in a chemist. However, Vic expresses doubts: ‘Suppose you went to the chemist and a bird served you […] I’d be too embarrassed to ask a bird’. Vic then attempts to buy condoms at the local barber’s shop but loses his nerve at the last minute. By then, it is too late and Ingrid is already pregnant. Vic acknowledges his ambivalence towards Ingrid: when Ingrid tells him ‘you’re not bothered about me’, Vic expresses his doubts to her: ‘I don’t know how I do feel half the time […] Sometimes I feel rotten about it, and I think it’s not fair to either of us to carry on’. However, Vic acknowledges the pressure to ‘do the right thing’, whether he loves Christine or not: as he later tells Christine, ‘You know, there’s only one thing to do around here when you put a lass in the family way, and that’s marry. Doesn’t matter whether you love her or not, as long as you make her respectable’.


There is also an interesting class dimension to this tale of Vic Brown’s moral development. From the outset, Vic is shown to have a far wider range of career choices than his working-class father ever had, and during one scene this particular fact is hammered home for him by one of his father’s friends. Vic’s brother Jim also aspires to be a doctor, and his sister Christine is a schoolteacher. Juxtaposed with Vic’s relationships with Ingrid and Donna is his perpetual desire to ‘get on’: hoping for a better career, he gives up his work as a draughtsman to work in Van Huyten’s shop, but when he finds his aspirations frustrated he follows Conroy’s trail ‘down south’, in hope of better pay. However, despite Vic’s middle-class aspirations he is still not welcomed by Ingrid’s very middle-class mother: when Vic first meets Ingrid’s parents, he is questioned about his salary and his decision to give up his work as a draughtsman to work in a shop. The Rothwell’s brightly-lit and well-furnished house is visually contrasted with the Brown’s dark and dim home. From the outset, Ingrid’s mother displays a snobbish attitude towards Vic and his family, asserting that ‘We’ve got some very good connections. I’d always had high hopes of the match that Ingrid might make. We don’t take kindly to having the pistols levelled at our heads this way’. When Ingrid’s father suggests that Ingrid and Vic will get married in a registry office, Ingrid’s mother sobs ‘Oh, when I think of the wedding I’ve always imagined for Ingrid: all in white at Saint Luke’s, with the choir and all our relatives and friends. When I think of this… this hole in the corner affair’.


However, despite their differences Vic hopes that love can grown between he and Ingrid: a key turning point in his decision to stay with Ingrid comes when Christine offers him some advice about the myths surrounding love: ‘People talk gibly about being in love. Magazines and films are full of it. And it’s all true: you can be in love with someone you hardly know, all romance and rapture and starry eyes. But there’s a difference between that and loving. You can’t love a person until you know him or her inside out, until you’ve lived with them and shared experience, sadness, joy. Living. You’ve got to share living until you find love. Being in love doesn’t last, but you can find love to take its place [….] Come on, Vic. Don’t waste your life on dreams. Build on what you’ve got: make your marriage work’. Christine’s advice seems to instigate Vic’s decision to remain with Ingrid, in the hope that ‘A Kind of Loving’ will grow between them. However, by 1963 Vic’s position has changed: as he sarcastically tells Ingrid, ‘Yeah, we’re alright. As alright as thousands of couple, I’d say. We might go on being alright in the same way. Eventually, we’d have kids and we’d squabble and bicker a bit and watch them grow up. And then they’d leave us, and we’d be on our own again, glad of a bit of peace and quiet again after it all. And we might grow together and find it’s what we’ve waited all our lives for. Or we might find we’ve got nothing to say to each other’. When Ingrid asks him, ‘Why do you have to analyse things all the time and make them complicated’, Vic asserts simply that ‘That’s the way things are’.

This adaptation of Barstow’s three novels about Vic Brown is surprisingly faithful to Barstow’s texts. Filled with some great performances, A Kind of Loving is thoroughly watchable and is interesting to compare with Schlesinger’s 1962 film adaptation – which is a little more shy in its treatment of the theme of sexuality. This journey through attitudes towards sex, love and marriage from the 1950s to the 1970s feels very authentic but is a little overbearing and can be painful to watch: the moral choices facing the protagonists are so recognisable and their unhappiness so unmediated that this series can at times be difficult to watch.

Disc One:

Episode One: Boxing Day 1957
Episode Two: January 1958
Episode Three: May 1958 – March 1959

Disc Two:
Episode Four: April 1959
Episode Five: October – December 1962
Episode Six: December 1962

Disc Three:
Episode Seven: February – August 1963
Episode Eight: August 1963
Episode Nine: October 1973 (Part One)
Episode Nine: October 1973 (Part Two)


Shot on video (with some location footage shot on 16mm film), the episodes are consistently well-presented on this DVD set. The image is detailed, and colours are natural. The episodes display very little wear.


The episodes are presented in their original broadcast screen ratio of 4:3.


Audio is presented via a two-channel track. Dialogue is clear; audio is crisp. However, there are no subtitles.


There are no extra features.


A very strong adaptation of Stan Barstow’s trilogy of novels about Vic Brown, A Kind of Loving is something of a lost classic, long unavailable on home video and rarely (if ever) seen via repeat screenings on television. Those familiar with John Schlesinger’s 1962 film adaptation of Barstow’s first novel will find much to enjoy here, as this television adaptation traces Vic Brown’s experiences throughout the 1960s and 1970s. An exceptionally well-produced drama, this release comes with a very high recommendation.

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