Summary of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alexandre Masson


Loneliness_of_the_Long_Distance_Runner_02jpgThe Loneliness Of the Long Distance Runner is a british movie that came out in 1962 as a part of the “Angry Young Man” series. It follows protagonist Colin Smith as he struggles to find a place for himself in a society in which he does not identify. The film opens as he is seen running along a river. He is then seen at ruxton tower, a reform school for young delinquents which teaches the non conforming youth to work with their hands. Right from the start, Smith makes it clear that he does not hold the authority in high regards. When asked to state his name to the man in charge who calls himself “the governor”, he says –Smith! To which another man replies: – say sir when you are adressing the governor! Instead of saying Smith sir like it was expected of him, he replies with: -Sir Smith, using ironic inversion to show his disapproval which irritates the authorities in place. Shortly after, the men in charge witness Smith scoring a goal in a friendly soccer match against his schoolmates. Seeing how talented he is at running, they decide to make him their calling card for a competition against Ranley, a public school from the area. He then becomes the governor’s favorite, so much so that when he and another colleague start a fight in the cafeteria, he gets off without consequences while the other guy is thrown in jail. We also witness some family scenes where at home, his father is painfully dying, refusing to take any kind of medication. As the competition approaches, the governor and his men spread the word and everyone as high hopes of Smith making a name for himself and the school. He gets promoted from the factory to the garden and is allowed to make practice runs by himself a few days prior to the competition. Outside of school, he commits small time robberies in a bakery and police suspects him. However, throughout the film, he expresses a clear distaste for money, as he dreams of burning it and says he will do so when his mom asks him what he would do if he had money. Time passes and the time of the competition arrives. He comes close to the finish line with a considerable lead, but as he runs, flashbacks of what the governor has told him, of his dad, his colleagues, his friends and his siblings passes through his mind. As he recalls all of it, he realizes that it is of extremely bad taste to him and decides that he wants in no way give the victory to this school and to the governor. A few meters prior to the finish line, after having taking several breaks which were not enough to allow his opponents to reach him, he completely stops. This leaves everyone who was rooting for him in complete shock. The film ends as the governor walks in the locker room, not believing what he just witnessed.

Throughout the film, Smith’s overall uneasiness was very apparent. The death of his father followed by his mother meeting a new man, having to go to reform school to learn how to be like everyone else, all of that seems to have contributed to his feeling of not belonging there. That is why he decided that in the end, it was us vs them. My generation vs the one before. He seems to believe that there is no bright future for him where he is and he commits self sabotage to teach the old guard a lesson: that no one can tell him what to do. I feel that by doing such a thing, he was taking a pledge of freedom, confirming to himself that he and only he could decide of his faith. Throughout the film, he had made them believe their nonsense, but deep down, I think he always had the idea that something like this would happen. At the beginning, one of his colleague tells him that he is becoming a conformist to which he replies that he is making believe to get to them later. This generation of “angry young men”(there was a series of film similar to this one made in England in the 60’s) would prove to be a driving force behind the rock and roll revolution that was to come in England during the sixties and the seventies, proving to be the voice of an entire generation that still vibrates to their sound and anger, to their chants of protests.