By Sarah Cox
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Young Hearts Run Free: Teen romance in an unconvincing 1970s

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This low budget independent film is set in a Northumberland pit village during the decisive 1974 miners’ strike.
Issue 2246
Sue Proudlock (Jennifer Bryden)
Sue Proudlock (Jennifer Bryden)

This low budget independent film is set in a Northumberland pit village during the decisive 1974 miners’ strike.

But the strike is only a backdrop to the story of young people struggling to escape from the close-knit village community to develop their talents in the wider world.

It is a teenage romance with a classically predictable plot.

Village boy Mark falls for sophisticated stranger, Sue, and follows her to London only to find that her sophistication masks a shallow selfishness.

On its own terms Young Hearts Run Free is likeable, despite some occasionally ropey acting. But why is it set during such a central point of class struggle?

Here the strike is an obstacle. It forces Claire, the daughter of Big George, the miners’ union rep, to postpone going to university.

Mark is her best friend. He desperately needs enough money to join Sue at art school in London.

So he scabs on the strike. His behaviour seems odd as his father was killed in a pit accident. Until this point he was determined to stay and look after his sick mother.

This film consistently puts arguments against the strike more forcefully than reasons for it.

There is no feeling of the solidarity and collective strength that the strike provided.

Mark echoes the mine manager’s view that the Coal Board can’t afford to increase pay. He says, “In 20 years there’ll be no mines.”

Director Andy Mark Simpson grew up in a mining community at Ashington in Northumberland, and was a baby when the miners were defeated in 1985.

He says that he set his film during the earlier 1974 strike to show what his parents would have felt.

The period detail in the film is wonderful—with gloriously authentic 1970s clothes and wallpaper. But the feel is wrong.

There is no inkling of the power of a dispute which plunged the nation into darkness and onto a three-day working week.Tory prime minister Edward Heath called a general election asking, “Who rules, parliament or the unions?” He lost.

The images of Northumberland’s countryside are beautiful, but I don’t quite believe in the characters moving through it.

Young Hearts Run Free is going on tour to a limited number of venues from the beginning of April, often with a Q&A by its writer/director. Go to


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