Picks and Pans Review: Dance with a Stranger

updated 08/05/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/05/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In 1955 a woman named Ruth Ellis tracked down David Blakely, her race-car driver boyfriend, at a London pub. Outside in the fog she removed a gun from her purse and shot him dead. "Go and call the police" was all she said to the shocked witnesses. Ellis was convicted of murder and hanged in Holloway prison, the last woman to be executed in Great Britain. This film, directed by Mike (The Awakening) Newell, examines the emotions behind the case, and not since Room at the Top has there been such a sizzlingly sexual bundle from Britain. Newell and his remarkable screenwriter, Shelagh (A Taste of Honey) Delaney, probe the class structure that doomed these two lovers. Ellis, as played by dazzling newcomer Miranda Richardson, is a working-class blonde itching to break into the Establishment. One night the wealthy young Blakely wanders into the nightclub where she's a hostess. He's taken with her smoky sensuality. She can't keep her hands off his body or her mind off what he represents. But the rigid social structure of the '50s makes a lasting union impossible. Blakely escapes into cars and drink. Rupert Everett, so good in Another Country, plays this weak character with ruthless honesty and an erotic languor. Richardson does startling things to help us see inside Ellis. In one scene, Blakely drives her to his family's estate and then loses his nerve about introducing her. Ellis catches only a glimpse of the gentrified life she wants so passionately. Richardson, without dialogue, renders her character's feelings faultlessly. She is smashing. So is the film. (R)

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