Educating Rita charts the difficulties of a married woman in the 1980s trying to find herself whilst gaining an education. From misogyny to the class system, Lewis Gilbert’s film explores the depth of desire to achieve and to break free from the shackles of society. Most importantly, it explores the importance of choice.
Susan (Julie Walters) is a working class housewife whose husband, Denny, believes the only thing she needs in life is to have a baby. But this fiery hairdresser has other plans for herself and after changing her name to Rita she realises that the only way she can really change is from within. She enrols in an Open University course to study Literature, but the one thing Rita really needs is a great teacher – enters Michael Caine, an alcoholic who arrives to lectures and seminars completely drunk, hugely self-pitying. Frank (Caine) is a failed poet who doesn’t quite fit the normal criteria for an ideal teacher. This is a far cry from Robin Williams in Dead Poet Society! Yet, as these two headstrong characters collide, Rita’s undying ambition and optimism turns Frank’s reserved and drink-hazed world upside-down.
Gilbert’s story gives a voice to a character with true passion and a real sparkle which feeds the entire film with inspiration and sensitivity. The dialogue is exquisite and is fuelled by highs and lows that will have you laughing and crying throughout. And with BAFTA award winning performances from Walters and Caine, the film is raised to an even higher standard through their excellence on the screen. A film to inspire and motivate, Educating Rita is one you simply have to add to your bucket list!
Educating Rita (1983), directed by Lewis Gilbert, is released on DVD by ITV Studio Home Entertainment, Certificate 15.