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
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.
- Boyish Short Hair: Gillie
- Cassandra Truth: Gillie tries to explain that she's late for choir due to the police investigation, but the priest naturally assumes this is one of her tall tales.
- The police are reluctant to listen to Christine, a prostitute, when she tries to tell them about her encounter with Bronislav.
- Dark and Troubled Past: It's implied that Bronislav and Anya spent time in a Soviet prison camp before coming to Britain.
- Deadpan Snarker: Superintendent Graham, on occasion.
- 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.
- Foreign Language Tirade: Pretty much the entirety of the (Polish-language) argument that leads to Anya's death.
- Friend to All Children: Bronek, who never seems to be in too much of hurry to give a kid a friendly pat on the head, or a push on a swing. It makes his crime all the more shocking.
- Gender Flip: Gillie's character was initially meant to be a boy, but the director changed his mind when he met John Mills' daughter.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Bronek and Anya exchange a few, ahem, choice words. In unsubtitled Polish. Doubles as a Bilingual Bonus.
- Then there's Christine, the thinly-veiled prostitute who moves into Anya's old flat.
- Gratuitous Polish
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Bronek's on edge during the first half of the film in particular, for obvious reasons.
- Harmful to Minors: Gillie and her playmates growing up in a rough neighbourhood notwithstanding, there is the small matter of her being a witness to murder . . .
- Heartwarming Orphan: Subverted. Although she's by no means a bad kid, Gillie is a hell-raiser, and is quite clearly resentful of having lost her home.
- Hero Antagonist: Superintendent Graham.
- 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.
- I Didn't Mean to Kill Her
- Intergenerational Friendship: Gillie and Bronek.
- Kitchen Sink Drama: A few scenes of this ilk throughout the movie, but particularly near the beginning.
- Love Makes You Evil: When Gillie asks Bronek why he murdered Anya, he says, "I don't know. Because I loved her too much, maybe."
- Manipulative Bastard: Bronek stringing an 11-year-old along at the beginning of the film (with such gems as "No more lies. Friends don't lie to each other.") borders on sickening.
- Meaningful Echo: "I don't want you! I don't!"
- Mood Whiplash: During Bronek's tale to entertain Gillie, he intones solemnly "I saw the river red with blood, (brightly) and then I don't remember no more!"
- And directly afterward, Gillie playfully demands to see his scar, and pulls up his sleeve, only to reveal a tattoo of Anya's name. Cue instant shattering of their cheerful frolicking.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Never said, but the look on Bronek's face as Anya falls to the floor is clear enough.
- 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.
- The Place
- 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 . . . .
- Street Smart: Gillie, and how!
- Suspect Is Hatless: The description Superintendent Graham takes from Gillie of the perpetrator. Although she's doing it on purpose.
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Graham.
- Translation Convention: Zig Zagged in one scene. During the Bronek and Anya's argument, the dialogue switches between Polish and English, illustrating Gillie's perspective, and their own.
- Wait Here: Bronek to Gillie. Gille . . . goes to play by the river.
- Worthy Opponent: The final lines of the film.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Bronek, even though he Would Hurt A Girl.
- Yandere: Bronek certainly has shades of this.
- You Do Not Have to Say Anything: The 50s British version is given to Barclay. And later Bronislav.