Agonising vicious circle

This is my review of The Outcast [DVD].

I do not know how close this film is to the original novel, but it is a vivid and moving portrayal of how a tragedy can turn a lively and appealing ten-year-old into a violent delinquent. Nowadays, Lewis Aldridge would receive counselling and therapy, which might not necessarily work, of course. However, in the stuffy convention of England in the 1940s-50s, his traumatised inability to account for the tragic incident makes him an object of suspicion, even for his father Gilbert. It does not help that, recently returned from the war, Gilbert is a virtual stranger to his son, and that his uptight inability to abandon his stiff upper lip makes him unable to show the boy any natural emotions of love and sympathy.

It is agonising to see how Lewis’s life spirals inexorably out of control, and to doubt that the tale can ever reach a positive conclusion. Problems are compounded by his relations with the neighbouring family of Gilbert’s boss, who are in their respective ways even more dysfunctional than the Aldridges, hiding their problems behind masks of well-heeled respectability.

Although some scenes are a little clunky, and I could have done with subtitles to catch all the dialogue, the film is very powerful in arousing empathy for Lewis as he is repeatedly misunderstood and driven into a downward spiral. It could be that the unrelenting nastiness of some characters is a little exaggerated, and the inhabitants of Waterford somewhat stereotyped in their prejudices, but it is a compelling drama, evocative of a bland, stuffy 1950s which could drive bored housewives to drink.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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