Parents' Guide to

Room at the Top

By Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Classic portrayal of ruthless ambition has sex and violence.

Movie NR 1959 112 minutes
Room at the Top Poster Image

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Is It Any Good?

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Based on John Braine's bestselling novel, the film was highly influential in British cinema and stands the test of time well enough -- despite the jarring sexism. A kitchen sink-style drama with an angry young man at its center, it is a poignant and well-crafted story that pulls no punches in terms of its depiction of class and relationships. It certainly lives up to its billing of "a savage story of lust and ambition." It makes sense then that one if its two Oscars went to the screenplay, while the other went to Signoret's phenomenal performance as Joe's lover, Alice. An early example of a complex female character onscreen, Alice is an unhappily married woman with an independent spirit, who is both confident yet intensely vulnerable. Harvey's narcissistic chauvinist has proven less timeless, but remains a strong character despite the questionable accent.

Directed by Jack Clayton -- who would later go on to direct The Great Gatsby (1974) -- and filmed by cinematographer Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man, Cape Fear), Room at the Top captures the post-war northern town with gritty realness. The atmospheric bars, moonlit streets, and lavish upper-class interiors all add a hint of romanticism that is mirrored in the tragic ending. While the content doesn't have the shock value of its initial release -- when the frank portrayal of sexuality was somewhat more scandalous -- the story still has a universal appeal in its portrayal of class struggle, moral compromise, and the unfathomable complexities of love.

Movie Details

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