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It was considered chic among cinephiles in the 1960s to denigrate British stage and film director Tony Richardson, but on balance he was responsible for as many important British films in these years as anyone else. One of the best of the British Angry Young Man films, THE LONELINESS OF THE
LONG DISTANCE RUNNER concerns Courtenay, an ill-educated youth who is sentenced to a reformatory after robbing a bakery. The borstal's governor, Redgrave, a great believer in the rehabilitative powers of sports, is delighted to learn that Courtenay is a natural distance runner and encourages him
to train for a big meet with a local public school, promising him special privileges in exchange for a victory. Most of the film is taken up with Courtenay's training, during which he flashes back to the events and relationships that have brought him to this point in his life. When the big race
finally arrives, Courtenay easily outclasses his competitors, but at the finish line he shocks the governor with an unexpected act of defiance. Adapted by Alan Sillitoe from his own short story and masterfully directed by Richardson, this poignant film was also the auspicious film debut of
Courtenay, whose excellent performance earned him the British Academy's Most Promising Newcomer award.