Claude Whatham (director)
21 October 2019 (released)
21 October 2019
The film’s title is, of course, taken from the famous Buddy Holly song and is played during the end credits. No coincidence as this BAFTA-nominated film from 1973 features David Essex as a school dropout and odd-jobber who, by chance, finds an outlet for his disillusionments in rock ‘n’ roll.
In a brief prequel sequence we see little Jim MacLaine, his mother Mary (Rosemary Leach) and granddad eagerly awaiting the return of Dad following a long spell at the army. After a few weeks of seemingly domestic bliss it becomes apparent that Dad has become restless, be it due to his wartime experiences or otherwise. Unable to re-adjust to a stable family life he packs his suitcase and leaves home with some well-meant advise for his young son: “You’ll be a good lad, Jimmy, and look after your mother.”
Forward to the early 1960’s and Jim MacLaine (David Essex) is now a bright pupil with the chance of a university education but – just like his dad – he doesn’t seem interested in convention and instead decides to drop out from school and run away. A succession of odd-jobs including deckchair attendant at a seaside resort might allow him a certain amount of freedom and his own room but ultimately Jim is a drifter who is always looking for the next kick… but what precisely he simply doesn’t know. A friendly copper picks him up when he falls asleep on the beach in an inebriated state and Jim claims several times “Careful, I’m a madman when I’m drunk” (which is a hilarious scene).
A chance encounter brings Jim together with the streetwise funfair attendant Mike (Ringo Starr) who in turn not only introduces him to a new way of life (and how to earn an extra few bob) but the fairground’s dance halls promise an even bigger thrill: rock ’n’ roll! Cue Stormy Tempest (Billy Fury) and his assorted musicians. We also see the one and only Keith Moon in the role of way ott drummer (what else) J.D. Clover. With musical aspirations of his own and an undeniable success with the ladies, Jim in particular dreams of getting his own band together though initially only succeeds in getting a girl pregnant. Mike in turn has aspirations of managing a band. The two friends drink, shag and smoke their way through countless beds and bars while working hard on making their dreams come true. But times are tough and success isn’t lurking round the corner just yet. Still not sure which direction he should take in his life, Jim has a sudden change of heart when he feels guilt about his previous actions after running away from home. Now he wants to make up for it and so he returns home to help his hard-working Mum run the family store and to marry his sweetheart back from his school days – Jeanette (Rosalind Ayres). We already know (before he knows it) that domestic bliss is not a life for Jim and sure enough, when Jeanette and Jim become the proud parents of a baby boy once again he grows only too conscious of the trappings a conventional life holds in store. Remembering his own father’s decision to break away for good, Jim packs his suitcase once again and leaves wife, baby and family behind to follow the lure of freedom and of rock ‘n’ roll….
THAT’LL BE THE DAY (in a brand new restoration!) is as much kitchen sink drama (with competent acting) as it is a music drama and it launched the film career of David Essex. It’s also a fascinating trip down memory lane and all the more interesting as the characters playing the various musicians were portrayed by real-life musicians who had lived through the era.