Living Apart Together (4 stars)

Living Apart Together

Restored 80s lost drama about a Glaswegian pop star starring singer-songwriter BA Robertson

Made for fledgling network-broadcaster Channel 4 in 1982, writer/director Charlie Gormley’s film might seem like an odd choice for restoration; this clearly isn’t a masterpiece in disrepair, but a humble homegrown proposition. Yet after several decades of obscurity, the re-release of Living Apart Together from Park Circus reveals something of a hidden gem, a natural and insightful look into the damage that a public media profile can cause when inflicted on private lives.

Singer-songwriter BA Robertson stars as Ritchie Hannah, a successful pop star who lives in the fashionable West End of Glasgow with Amy (Barbara Kellerman). When Amy walks out, Ritchie embarks on a casual relationship with Alicia (Judi Trott), but the separation causes a strain on Ritchie’s family and friends, including Steve (Dave Anderson) and Jake (Jimmy Logan). A bruising encounter with some local thugs forces Ritchie to wake up to the ramifications of his own personal infidelities, and take his responsibilities as a father more seriously.

Living Apart Together has gained from being lost for several decades; the reliance on natural locations now make it seem like a time capsule of local delights, from gaudy Woolworths signs to forgotten Glasgow nightspots like DeQuincey’s, and Robertson’s vertically loading gramophone is a sight to behold. But beneath the retro-style, Gormley’s film feels decidedly modern in the way it deftly probes away at Ritchie’s West of Scotland machismo, revealing an inner darkness behind his well-crafted tunes.

A delightful scene in which Robertson, Anderson and Trott break into a spontaneous dance is a clear lift from Godard’s 1964 classic Bande à Part, but also lays bare the ambitions of Gormely’s film: rather than aping Hollywood dramas, Living Apart Together aims for the unforced sophistication of French cinema, and the mix with pawky Glasgow humour makes for a beguiling blast from the past.

Screening at Glasgow Film Festival, Sun 24 Feb.

Living Apart Together

  • 4 stars
  • 1982
  • UK
  • 2h 20min
  • 12
  • Directed by: Charles Gormley
  • Written by: Charles Gormley
  • Cast: B.A. Robertson, Barbara Kellerman, Judi Trott

Ritchie (Robertson) is a successful Glasgow pop star whose life starts to unravel when girlfriend Amy (Kellerman) walks out on him. The late Charlie Gormley's 1982 film may feel like a time capsule of local delights, but its probing of Ritchie's machismo is decidedly modern. A beguiling blast from the past.