Based on the 1958 play of the same name, A Taste of Honey tells the story of a young girl named Jo (played by Rita Tushingham). Jo lives in Manchester with her single mother, Helen (Dora Bryan), a lounge singer in the local pubs who doesn’t provide Jo with much of a positive influence. Jo sleeps with a black sailor making port in Manchester and discovers she is pregnant months after his ship has set sail. Not wanting anything to do with Jo’s ordeal, Helen shacks up with another man and moves away to the suburbs.
Now alone, pregnant, and with nowhere to turn, Jo moves into a dilapidated flat and takes a job at the local shoe store. It is here that she meets Geoffrey (Murray Melvin), a flamboyant young gay man who works in the same shoe store. Each recognizing the other as an outcast to society, they identify with one another and see a way to satisfy each other’s basic needs. Geoffrey moves in with Jo and offers to be a father to her unborn child, forming a most non-traditional family of sorts. Jo reluctantly accepts this, though she often feels her fate has been predetermined by the actions (and lack of appropriate guidance) of her mother.
“The dedicated producers have concocted a bitter “Honey” that is rare and travels well.”
— A. H. Weiler, The New York Times
“Although time may have blunted the impact of its taboo-busting issues, it’s no less flavorful for its powerful performances, most notably Rita Tushingham in her breakout role as Jo, through whose wide, expressive eyes we see a grim world of mean expectations.”
— Cinema Retro
“With its hardscrabble, lower-class milieu and often documentary-like aesthetic, Tony Richardson’s astounding A Taste of Honey often feels like a precursor to the works of Mike Leigh or, for that matter, even Ken Loach, whose debut, Poor Cow, was still six years away and his first masterwork, Kes, eight years in the future.”
— Battleship Pretension
Did You Know?
Even though 55 years have gone by, many of the film’s provocative themes in A Taste of Honey are strikingly relevant to the world of today, and at times, a reminder of how far we’ve come. In many ways, filmmaker Tony Richardson was one of the pioneers of the 1960s social movements that swept across the UK and United States. It is also important to note that both Rita Tushingham and Murray Melvin won awards for this film at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival. Review our Gay Themed Films Here