Kitchen Sink Realism: A male dominated genre from a women's point of view
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
It's funny after reading the caption for A Taste of Honey(1962) on the film poster above I could not disagree more with how this film was promoted. Jo played by Rita Tushigham has absolutely no love of life, in fact, the only thing that keeps her going is her anger at her mother and the sad state of affairs living in a polluted desolate and impoverished England audiences outside of the UK had not really seen before the late 1950s. Kitchen Sink Realism dealt with social issues of the British working class, such as divorce, abortion, teen pregnancy, poverty, homosexuality, and the inability to move up in their social classes. Mostly told through the lens of angry young men, A Taste of Honeytackles such issues as interracial love, loneliness, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, the reality of motherhood, ageism, and homosexuality.
A Taste of Honeyfirst started out as a play written by Shelagh Delaney who then wrote the screenplay with the director of the film Tony Richardson. What makes this film so unique is how it amplifies the lack of opportunities for working-class women. Dora Bryan plays Helen Jo's mother. Helen loves her daughter but is diluted and unfit to provide support for her daughter. Helen's alcoholism is her coping mechanism, in it, she drowns out reality and finds herself marrying one man after another. Any man that will take her away from the monotony of living on the dole. Helen's fiancè points out the age difference between them and Helen buys into the idea it is better to be married to a man who can provide for her financially than to be old, broke, and alone. Unfortunately, Helen's choices run dry as her husband's alcoholism and lust for younger women lead Helen astray.
Jo a 17-year old Salford schoolgirl meets a black sailor named Jimmy. They have a brief romantic relationship, and soon Jimmy has left Jo alone and to Jo's dismay, she realizes she is pregnant. Jo finds solace in her friend Geoff. Jo asks him what is it like to be gay, and Geoff quietly sulks back into his social queue. Jo tells him she doesn't care what he does and he can move into her flat, the first place Jo has lived without her mother. Geoff wants to take care of Jo, he cleans, cooks, and takes over the domestic chores in her apartment. Drawing ballerinas on the walls and giving her a sense of order and comfort. Geoff asks Jo to marry him and assures her he will gladly help take care of the baby, he even goes to a women's clinic to get leaflets about becoming a parent. The doctor gives him a baby doll and some literature on parenting. Jo looks at the doll and tells him it isn't the "right color". She throws the doll on the floor and tells him," I hate being a woman, I don't want to be a mother". Geoff tells her she can have an abortion, "they have ways of getting rid of the baby". Jo doesn't want to get rid of the baby or have the baby, she doesn't really know what to do. Jo has just been given a taste of freedom and now she is thrown into motherhood. Jimmy the father of her baby has no connection to her and has gone off to sea. Things just don't get any better for Jo. Helen comes back to "help" Jo at the end of the film, but Geoff knows it is now time to leave. Helen makes it clear she does not want him there. When Jo tells her mother the baby may be black Helen goes to the liquor store to deal with the news. No Hollywood ending here. Just the stark realization that being a woman in 1962 was a lonely road for both mother and daughter.