Working Class Heroes: British Working Class on Film

Poor Cow 15

Poor Cow

A landmark in British social realist filmmaking, Ken Loach's debut feature film was a kitchen-sink drama starring Carol White (Cathy Come Home) as a working-class single mother living in the London slums.

Beautiful, free-spirited and resilient, Joy (White) faces a plight from a set of social circumstances largely outside her control. Married to a brutal, uncaring husband (John Bindon), his incarceration in jail nevertheless leaves her struggling to cope. Although living in poverty and enduring mistreatment by her partner, Joy’s resilience about her lot is seemingly rewarded when a chance of happiness emerges when she falls for her husband’s associate, Dave (Terence Stamp). A kind and gentle presence in her life, Joy and her young son decide to move in with him in the hope of a better future - but with heart-breaking results.

Full of '60s colour and songs - including the music of Donovan – Loach’s film was both stylistically innovative, and bore the early hallmarks of his signature improvised spontaneity, offset by a tender compassion for, and thoughtful involvement in, his subject. Heartfelt and immaculately observed, this is a fascinating example of an early work from British cinema’s unswerving champion of the working class.