Posted: 11/16/2008




by Annie Vinton

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Filth, which takes place in London and one of its quieter suburbs, is the true account of Mary Whitehouse, played by Julie Waters, a morally uptight woman who is determined to halt the advancement of television programming considered “filth” by her during the sexual revolution of the ’60s. This crusade was instigated by a BBC program aired during tea time that included premarital sex. At the onset of the movie she essentially is a community activist with some lofty goals to make a difference but eventually she becomes a household name.

Whitehouse, with the support of her husband and sons, is soon catapulted from her quiet well regimented family life in the suburbs to a regular face and name amongst the media executives, in particular Sir Hugh Greene who’s sleaziness and sexist ways are perfectly captured by Hugh Bonneville. While some women may have faltered, she stays strong in the face of adversity with accusations of being unintelligent and uncreative by the media and personal attacks in letters amongst the bags of mails she receives. She quickly learns the downside of the media’s in one’s life especially when you’re on the wrong side of it.

She continues to draw strength from God and her loyal and loving husband, but this is shattered when the dynamics of their relationship shifts when he experiences a traumatic incident. She nearly retreats from her quest to fight the BBC with her husband emotionally unavailable, but her need for him helps him heal and she carries on with her mission.

The story is well written and directed with many moments of levity, sexual tension and real life ironic moments of her life reminding us that Mary Whitehouse is human.

Filth airs on Masterpiece Contemporary Sunday, November 16 at 9pm on PBS.

Annie Vinton is a freelance writer and film critic living in NYC. You can read more about her and her writing here.

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