Song of Experience

Song of Experience ★★★½

This 1986 Screen Two is a coming of age tale set in Yorkshire in the late 1950s. Directed by Stephen Frears and written by then newcomer Martin Allen (who went on to write the feature Resurrected for Paul Greengrass and now regularly writes for Coronation Street) it puts paid to Philip Larkin's belief that sex began after the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP.

Sex is everywhere for adolescent boy James Bennett (Alan Bell), even if he isn't sure what it actually is. Not even a Saturday morning spent trainspotting with his pals, the delicate Gordon Lumb (Paul Darlow) and older (teddy) boy Johnny Sloman (Trevor Moffat), can distract Bennett from the inevitability of approaching maturity. In between marvelling at the steam engines that cross the length and breadth of God's own country, Bennett's knowledge of the original sin develops, from hearing of the Lady Chatterley's Lover trial on the radio news - tellingly in between Children's Favourites and the more teen orientated Saturday Club - and spotting a courting couple heavy petting in a car from beyond their carriage window, to Sloman's facts of life tutorial which shows up his ignorance and the facade of maturity he cockily hides behind before his younger, naive mates. Messing about in a railway shed however will see poor Lumb confronted by Nigel Terry's transport policeman and Bennett, returning to help his friend, finds his education continues with some disturbing, startling information.

Beautifully written with a salty, authentic ear for dialogue, nicely directed (of course) by Frears and blessed with excellent period detail (both in production design and the choice of music and the inclusion of Max Bygraves and Brian Matthew on the radio), location work and assured playing by the three juvenile leads, Song of Experience is a bit of a gem. Watch it on YouTube.