Dance with a Stranger | 1985 | Miranda Richardson, Rupert Everett,

Dance with a Stranger | 1985 | Miranda Richardson, Rupert Everett,

Few cases in British law have exercised the imagination as powerfully as that of Ruth Ellis. Hanged for shooting estranged lover David Blakely outside a London pub in 1955, the jury were unaware of just how abusive her relationship with Blakely had been, that she’d been addicted to anti-depressants, or that as a child she’d been raped by her father. Dance With A Stranger, written by ‘A Taste Of Honey’ playwright Shelagh Delaney, unflinchingly examines Ellis’ relationship with Blakely. The result is both an impressively powerful drama and a moody evocation of sleazy 1950s London.

Looking like a washed out Monroe, Ellis (Miranda Richardson) is a single mother and former prostitute, now working as a hostess at a London club. There she meets vicious playboy Blakely (Rupert Everett), and in his money, class and connections, sees the escape route she’s always dreamed of. They embark on a chaotic affair but the cycle of booze-fuelled violence grows increasingly ugly until finally Ellis, provoked beyond endurance, guns him down in the street.

Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings And A Funeral, Donnie Brasco) keeps the plot and the structure simple but conveys all the anguish of a woman trapped in a relationship she recognises as wrong, yet cannot seem to leave. Stylistically it owes something to noir but Delaney’s tight script – with its focus on repression, hypocrisy and class – means the content is indisputably English. Making her feature debut, Richardson is delicate and intense throughout, and makes vivid the horror of Ellis’ predicament. There’s fine support by Everett, Ian Holm and Joanne Whalley, and though the conclusion is never in doubt, when it comes it’s memorably powerful and sad. Dark stuff, and among the decade’s best.

Miranda Richardson as Ruth Ellis
Rupert Everett as David Blakeley
Ian Holm as Desmond Cussen
Stratford Johns as Morrie Conley
Joanne Whalley as Christine
Tom Chadbon as Anthony Findlater
Jane Bertish as Carole Findlater
David Troughton as Cliff Davis
Matthew Carroll as Andy
David Beale as Man in Little Club
Charon Bourke as Ballroom Singer
Lesley Manville as Maryanne

Production Design: Andrew Mollo
Art Direction: Adrian Smith
Set Decoration: Alison Stewart-Richardson
Director Of Photography: Peter Hannan
Costume Design: Pip Newbery
Costume Supervisor: Janty Yates
Director: Mike Newell
Editor: Mick Audsley
Producer: Roger Randall-Cutler
Casting: Celestia Fox
Associate Producer: Paul Cowan
Original Music Composer: Richard Hartley
Writer: Shelagh Delaney

UK | 102 minutes | 1985



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