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A Sense of Freedom

A Sense of Freedom – 1979
Director
John Mackenzie

Writers
Jimmy Boyle book
Peter McDougall

Producer
Raymond Day
Jeremy Isaacs

Cast
David Anderson – Tam
Bill Armour – Prison warder
Bill Barclay – Bill
Martin Black – Bobbie Dugan
Jim Boyce – Sgt. Bobbie
Monica Brady – Sheila
Jim Byars – PC Green
Vince Cunningham – News vendor
Jake D’Arcy – Robbie
Scott Douglas – Desk sergeant
Ken Drury – Prison warder
Jackie Farrell – Prison warder
Myra Forsyth – Mrs. Johnson
Kate Gardiner – Boyle┬┤s mother
Jim Gibb – Gus
Roy Hanlon – Chief officer
David Hayman – Jimmy Boyle
Billy Jeffrey – Archie
Paul Kermack – Prison doctor
James Macdonald – Sergeant
Fulton Mackay – Insp. Davidson

Review by Theo Robertson

A Sense of Freedom (1979)

I Saw This As A Thirteen Year Old,
Being 13 years old in 1979 meant three TV channels , no videos , no X certificate movies and strict guidelines as to what was shown on television. In other words 13 year old schoolboys were sheltered as to what they saw in those days so when A SENSE OF FREEDOM was broadcast it caused a massive stir at school with it being the main topic of conversation due to its depressing violence and strong language

” This place is a f***in’ sh**house ”
” Shut it ya f***in’ pr*ck ”

” Hey did did you see that bit where Boyle gobbed on the cop at the police station ? ”
Perhaps the most memorable scene at the time was Fulton Mackay best known for his comedy role in PORRIDGE moaning that ” It’s always raining in f***in’ Greenock ” which was quite shocking , and A SENSE OF FREEDOM was rather shocking and depressing at the time

I haven’t seen it since then but I did read the book in the mid 1980s and have to say this adaptation doesn’t really do the book justice . Okay there’s a massive amount of scope involved in Boyle’s book that takes place from his childhood to his time in Barlinne special unit so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much since it must have been near impossible for Peter McDougall to adapt , but the book itself is totally compelling giving a brutal insight as to what it’s like to serve a life sentence in the Scottish penal system at the time . Most disappointingly the film version ends with Boyle’s arrival in the special unit , in the book if memory serves me right this happens about two thirds of the way through and Boyle is shocked when the penal system treats him like a human being . I can’t help thinking A SENSE OF FREEDOM ( Film version ) would have worked better if it concentrated a bit more at the end on the special unit thereby giving the screenplay a more obvious redemption plot

A couple of other points about crime and punishment in Scotland since A SENSE OF FREEDOM….

Scotland now has it’s own devolved parliament where it’s elected members bend over backwards to accommodate the rights of convicted criminals in prison . There’s several prisoners ( Including sex offenders ) taking the Scottish parliament to the European Court Of Human Rights at the moment claiming that because they don’t get enough recreation their rights have been abused

The Gorbals estate where Boyle and his cronies grew up is now a desolate wasteland full of drug addicts . It’s always been a rough place but in the days of Boyle and razor gangs and NO MEAN CITY the gangs would stick to their own . There’s no such honour nowadays as woman and old age pensioners are seen as fair game for a mugging . This isn’t something I read about either since my brother used to live in the Gorbals
The special unit was closed down several years ago as it was seen as a case of ” The lunatics running the asylum “

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