Sunday, 17 November 2013

Intimate Relations (1996)

As regular readers of my blog probably know, I'm a bit of a fan of true crime biographies hailing from post war Britain. There's just something about that starchy austere veneer that, once scratched, so often revealed a hotbed of sexual frustration and cold blooded murder. No wonder the net curtains twitched!

This film from 1996 starring Rupert Graves, Julie Walters and Laura Sadler (left to right above) ticks all those boxes, based as it is on the real life murderous scandal that saw Albert Goozee, a former merchant seaman stab to death his landlady and ageing mistress Mrs Leakey and her fourteen year old daughter Norma, following a picnic, before attempting to take his own life. The post mortem  would later reveal that Goozee had sexually assaulted Norma.  He was tried for Norma's murder alone in Dec 1956 (the prosecution for some reason electing to keep Mrs Leakey's murder on file) and sentenced to hang. This was subsequently appealed due to the Home Office believing he was 'provoked beyond reason' and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He served time at Broadmoor and was released in 1971, considered a paranoid schizophrenic. Goozee could not adjust to life outside or hold down a job and returned to prison on several occasions following his release, mainly for violent conduct. It was  Xmas Day 1995 (just months after this film was released) that the then 72 year old Goozee, lured two girls aged 12 and 13 to his home plied them with drink and indecently assaulted them. Returned to prison, Goozee was ultimately released to a care home in 2009 (causing further uproar in the national press) where the paedophile and murderer subsequently died following a hunger strike.

For more in depth information on Goozee and his crimes read these fascinating articles here;

Intimate Relations was written and directed by Philip Goodhew and somewhat controversially (especially given his actions to come in Dec '96) takes Goozee's account of his crime as its template. Changing the names to Harold Guppey and the Beasley family, it depicts Goozee/Guppey as an increasingly desperate young man (played by Graves) caught in a love triangle between a mother (Walters) and daughter (Sadler) the latter of whom is a Lolita-esque teen becoming aware of her sexuality and with an interest in the macabre, whilst the former is a sex starved seemingly prudish woman (she refuses to allow her one legged war veteran husband to share her bed) who insists Guppey calls her mum - thus giving the film an oedipal slant. Both mother and daughter are shown to become obsessed with their lodger and it's not long before he succumbs to the mother's advances (often in front of the girl) whilst he is shown to resist and spurn that of the daughter throughout, which I imagine was in keeping with Goozee's side of the story - though the film does allude to his 'interest' in young girls; Mrs Beasley calls him out on it and he is seen to molest a young girl in the local swimming baths after an argument with Mrs Beasley.

Ultimately what sinks Intimate Relations as a properly enjoyable experience is the uneven tone the rather amateurish Goodhew gives it. He tries for the blackly comic throughout, with a flippant use of music to score the action and the occasionally humourous line of dialogue, but it's only when the film reaches its final stages and the characters become more and more desperate that it actually achieves anything truly interesting and befitting the reality it is based upon. It also does not help that the film was clearly made on a budget with what looks like truly cheap looking washed out film giving it a rather damp hazy look. There's also too much colour on display whereas I think a darker more grey tone would have benefited the more noirish elements of the piece.

That said it is saved by three truly great performances at its heart. I may not necessarily buy the account the film gives us in relation to Goozee, but as Guppy, Graves easily gains audience empathy as Walters continues to dig her claws in him until he's virtually suffocating under the attention and demands. Walters is as ever brilliant, but for me the real star was Laura Sadler, the Grange Hill and Holby City actress whose star shone bright but swiftly; she died seven years later in 2003 aged just 22 when, following a large quantity of alcohol, cocaine and diazepam,  she fell from the balcony  of her Holland Park flat.

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