Yes, he's a killer and a child abductor, but he's really sorry.
Or, "Citizen Kane for Welsh people."1959 British New Wave film set in the eponymous district of Cardiff, Wales, most notable for introducing one Hayley Mills, of later Pollyanna fame, who stars as trouble-making tomboy Gillie Evans (as in "gill", not "gel"). When she witnesses a murder by chance, Gillie is kidnapped by the perpetrator, Bronislav Korchinsky (Horst Buchholz, appearing in his first English-language role), a Polish sailor desperate to escape the country and the clutches of the police. The film centres around the unorthodox friendship that develops between the two while being pursued by Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist Graham, played by Mills' father John Mills.
Provides examples of:
Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Anya grows tired of waiting for Bronislav, and finds herself a new beau - which is what leads Bronek to kill her in a moment of passion.
Accidental Murder: . . . er, kind of. At the very least, unplanned. It's hard to tell. He doesn't seem to realise what he's doing until she's dead.
Ambiguous Innocence: Gillie, who doesn't seem to realise the full implications of what she's seen until she's trapped in the church with Bronek, at which point the terror strikes.
Anti-Villain: Bronek assaults and murders his ex-lover in a rage, but is clearly remorseful the moment she falls to the floor. When he kidnaps Gillie in the church, he prays before an image of the Virgin for forgiveness "for what I have done . . and what I now am doing".
Bittersweet Ending: Bronek rescues Gillie and the two reconcile after he said some lousy things to her (trying to convince her to leave him), and as a result, he is arrested and could face the death penalty.
Blatant Lies: Gillie, frequently. Also Bronek, when trying to deny the murder. And Mr Barclay, regarding his relationship with Anya.
False Reassurance: When Bronek decides to let Gillie go, he tries to leave her in the countryside for the police to pick up, promising he'll be back once he gets their papers sorted out. She sees through it like wet tissue.
Heroic Sacrifice: Bronislav's decision at the end of the film is made all the more touching when one considers that he faces charges of a capital crime.
Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Christine, perhaps unwisely so. She doesn't ask for any details about the trouble Bronislav is in - she simply hands her travel papers and some money to him on hearing he needs out of the country.
Naked First Impression: Expecting to see his girlfriend, Bronek walks in on the new tenant, Christine, while she's changing. Though he seems more concerned about the rent he's been paying than anything else.
Nephewism: Which is how English Gillie ends up in Cardiff.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Arguable, but Bronek would gotten away scot-free if he had let Gillie drown. Instead he chooses to save her, and brings her (and himself) straight to the waiting arms of the police.
The Nondescript: The tall-ish, fair-ish, fat-ish man Gillie describes to Graham. With a hat.
One of the Boys: Gillie again. At one point she gets into a scrap with an older boy, who is admonished "You must never hit a lady." Gillie's furious response is "I'm not a lady!".
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Near the end of the film, when Graham confronts Bronek, Buchholz slips into his native German accent while shouting.
Precocious Crush: Hayley Mills admitted being besotted with Horst Buchholtz during filming. How much of that spills over into the movie is open to interpretation.
Protected by a Child: In the second half of the film, Gillie attempts to foil the police pursuit of Bronek every step of the way.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Mrs Phillips hardly ever stops scolding Gillie, but she clearly cares for her and she indulges her tomboy behaviour, even though she finds it incomprehensible. Also Superintendent Graham.
Scare Chord: Quite a few - when Anya's body is discovered, when Bronek snatches Gillie in the church . . . .