'Thatcher's Britain with her knickers down': why the snobs were wrong about Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Sue (Michelle Holmes), Bob (George Costigan) and Rita (Siobhan Finneran) 
Sue (Michelle Holmes), Bob (George Costigan) and Rita (Siobhan Finneran) 

Rita, Sue and Bob Too is 30 years old this month. On paper, it doesn’t sound like much of a comedy. A married man grooms two schoolgirls for sex. One of them gets knocked up, the other ends up getting knocked about. There’s alcoholism, racism and the kind of poverty that makes Benefits Street look like Made In Chelsea.

If they filmed it today it would probably end up as a solemn three-part BBC drama or one of those Channel 5 documentaries inviting us to gawp at life on a sink estate.

Yet Andrea Dunbar’s film isn’t grim. It is joyously, howlingly funny. At a BFI screening recently, where a show of hands revealed that a fair few were watching it for the first time, the audience was helpless with laughter.

It wasn’t my first time. I grew up in Bradford in the 1980s, not much younger than Rita and Sue when the film came out and with pretty much the same dress sense. The three settings - manicured...


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