Sunday 11 February 2024

Bill Douglas Trilogy: My Childhood [1972], My Ain Folk [1973], My Way Home [1978]

 Scottish filmmaker Bill Douglas’ remarkable trilogy evokes irony as much for its cinematic legacy – criminally under-watched despite being celebrated British New Wave films – as for its formal and thematic interplay. The three films were relentlessly bleak, on account of their grubby and desolate industrial setting, grim portrayal of socioeconomic and familial impoverishment, and rigorously spare and grainy monochrome treatments with both aesthetics and narratives pared to the bones. Yet, in parallel, they possessed deep emotional lyricism, visual poetics, hope, tenderness and warmth. And, while it’s impossible to understate the trilogy’s eloquent working-class politics, it was, above all, an intensely personal work. Essentially a reimagining of Douglas’ own experience and memories of growing up amidst extreme poverty, hardships and estrangements in the mining village of Newcraighall, during and after WW2, the three slender films covered the childhood and teenage years of his alter-ego Jamie (played with taciturn impassiveness by Stephen Archibald, whose weather-beaten face belied his young age). Douglass, in fact, had found Archibald – a deeply troubled kid with whom he developed a life-long kinship – through complete chance at a bus stop. In My Childhood, 8-year-old Jamie – abandoned by his dad upon his mom’s internment at a mental institution – is seen living with his loving granny and elder cousin brother Tommy, while forming a close bond with a Germany POW. In My Ain Folk, Jamie goes to live with his difficult and neurotic maternal grandmother, where he becomes close to his aged granddad. And finally in My Way Home, post shuttling between foster care and barren home, he’s conscripted into RAF, and thereafter develops friendship with Robert – who has difficulty in understanding his thick Scottish accent – while stationed in Egypt.

Director: Bill Douglas

Genre: Drama/Film a Clef/Semi-Autobiographical/Coming-of-Age

Language: English

Country: UK/Scotland

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