Kitchen sink realism: Britain as it really is?

Gritty, realistic pictures that probe social issues have been a staple of British film-making since the late 1950s – but has ‘the kitchen sink’ school of film-making become a cliché?

Jack Clayton’s 1959 film Room at the Top ushered in a whole new type of British cinema, one that focused on the problems and frustrations of working-class characters. This new type of picture dealt with hitherto unexplored themes: work, job dissatisfaction, sex outside of marriage, abortion, adultery. Critics dubbed these movies ‘kitchen sink’ dramas; they reflected the issues and concerns at the heart of British homes.

Kitchen sink realism has become one of the defining characteristics of UK cinema, with film-makers from Ken Loach and Mike Leigh through to Andrea Arnold and Shane Meadows working in and reinventing its conventions. Matthew Anderson reports on a very British contribution to world cinema.

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