Hard Labour (1973)

Original Title : Hard Labour
Director : Mike Leigh
Genre : Drama
Country : UK
Language : English
Producer : Tony Garnett
Photography : Tony Pierce-Roberts
IMDB ID : 0070153
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poster for "Hard Labour" by Mike Leigh (1973)
Hard Labour (1973) - Mike Leigh


Liz Smith Mrs. Thornley
Clifford Kershaw Jim Thornley
Polly Hemingway Ann
Bernard Hill Edward
Alison Steadman Veronica
Vanessa Harris Mrs. Stone
Cyril Varley Mr. Stone
Linda Beckett Julie
Ben Kingsley Naseem
Alan Erasmus Barry
Rowena Parr June
June Whitaker Mrs. Rigby
Paula Tilbrook Mrs. Thornley's friend
Keith Washington Mr. Shaw
Louis Raynes Tallyman
Alan Gerrard Greengrocer
Diana Flacks Mrs. Rubens
Patrick Durkin Frank


Mrs. Thornley works very hard without notice or appreciation. Every day she keeps her own house clean, attends to her husband and unmarried daughter, Ann, then cleans other women's houses. She looks tired and has little affect. She does have a married son and a daughter-in-law who's chatty and pleasant. Mrs. Thornley's husband works nights, except for Saturdays, when he expects conjugal attention. Ann's worried about pregnancy and talks to her mum about labor and childbirth. Later, Mrs. Thornley goes to confession at her parish church, and she makes an extraordinary revelation.


Like most of Leigh's early works this is all about watching the details of ordinary life. The "plot" as such revolves around a woman (Smith) and the suffering she goes through every day without taking any notice. She bears her hard life impassively and has most likely known nothing else. She is treated miserably by her family and her employer and accepts it as her lot in life as millions of working class women have before her. The ensemble cast is brilliant (watch for a very young Ben Kingsley in a sweet role as a cab driver) and I was particularly impressed with Kershaw's role as the hopeless wreck of a husband.