Sky West and Crooked (1966)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Hayley Mills in Sky West and Crooked (1966)

All Creatures Great and Small

Brydie White (Hayley Mills) was only a small child when the incident happened, not that she remembers it despite it being the cause of her having a much younger mental age than she is as she is becoming an attractive young lady. The trouble is that not only does Brydie get little support from her struggling mother (Annette Crosbie) but she has taken it upon herself to bury dead animals in the graveyard where she hangs out most days and even encourages other children to do the same. It leads to many of the locals having enough of Brydie's behaviour and want Reverend Moss (Geoffrey Bayldon) to put a stop to her actions despite him feeling compassion for her. Things reach boiling point when another incident occurs this time involving Mr. Dacres (Laurence Naismith) and it leads to a young traveller, Roibin Krisenki (Ian McShane), taking Brydie back to his camp.

Trying to fathom out where "Sky West and Crooked" is going is not a simple task and that is one of the things which makes this such an engaging movie even now more than 50 years after it was made. On one hand we have Brydie, the teen/young adult who lives a harmless life doing what she likes around the community she lives in and has never been taught the way of the world, you sense she was educationally abandoned following the incident which we encounter at the start of the movie, ostracized because of it. And let me just say that Hayley Mills, one of the greatest child actors there has ever been, does a fantastic job of playing Brydie as this attractive young adult but one who is innocent of mind and matter of fact when it comes to things she learns.

Ian McShane in Sky West and Crooked (1966)

But then on the other hand we have this community of people, full of country folk so we have the man who has become bitter and twisted by the incident, we have the local vicar who finds himself trying to find some way to bring peace in a difficult situation over the animal graves in the church's graveyard. Then we have Brydie's mum who following that incident has found herself isolated, ostracized by those who like to try and remind her of the scandal. But then we have Roibin the traveller who unsurprisingly in this 60s movie is referred to as a gypsy who whilst attracted to Brydie is also an outsider observing the adults of the community who attend church but lets just say don't act over Christianly when it comes to their attitudes to the children.

All of this doesn't feel like it is going anywhere and at times "Sky West and Crooked" feels like an observational drama of small community life in the 60s. Yet at the same time you sense the situation in the community with the people's attitudes is boiling up and something is going to happen to bring some sort of dramatic closure to the community, book ending the movie to mirror the dramatic opening.

What this all boils down to is that "Sky West and Crooked" is a fascinating movie which despite being over 50 years old is still engaging from start to finish. Part of that is down to the brilliant performances of Hayley Mills and Ian McShane but also because this drama has a simmering tension amongst the judgemental adults of the small rural community.