Alfie is a 1966 British film directed by Lewis Gilbert, starring Michael Caine. It is an adaptation by Bill Naughton of his own novel and play of the same name. The film was released by Paramount Pictures.
Alfie tells the story of a young man who leads a promiscuous lifestyle until several life reversals make him rethink his purposes and goals in life. Alfie frequently breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the camera narrating and justifying his actions. His words often contrast and/or totally contradict his actions.
The film begins with Alfie Elkins (Caine) ending a relationship with a married woman (Martin) and getting the woman from another of his affairs pregnant (Julia Foster). The film then follows his life for a few years, documenting events that lead to the character's emotional growth, starting with the birth of his son.
Watching his child grow brings out a more caring side of Alfie, including his having a health check in case of hereditary diseases, but his inability to commit to the child's mother leads to her marrying a bus conductor (Graham Stark). The health check reveals Alfie has shadows on his lungs, and this, combined with being banned from seeing his son, leads him to have a small breakdown.
Alfie then spends some time in a convalescent home. Here he meets Harry (Alfie Bass), who confronts him about his delusion that he is doing no harm, and Harry's wife (Vivien Merchant), whom he gets pregnant in a one-night stand. The subsequent abortion is a turning point for the character, and the only time other than his passing out/breakdown where he exhibits real emotion--breaking down in tears at the sight of the aborted fetus.
At the film's climax, Alfie decides to change his non-committal ways and settle down. He chooses Ruby (Shelley Winters), who is an older, voluptuous and promiscuous American he met while working taking holiday photos. Unfortunately, the day he chooses to suggest this to Ruby, he finds a younger man in her bed, leaving him disheartened at the film's end and wondering “What's it all about? You know what I mean.”
The end credits are unusual in that not only photos of the principal actors are featured, but also the main technical crew, including director Lewis Gilbert and cameraman Otto Heller.
Awards and recognition
The film won the Special Jury Prize at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Caine), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Vivien Merchant), Best Song (Burt Bacharach and Hal David for "Alfie") (a UK hit record for Cilla Black, but performed by Millicent Martin in the original UK release and Cher in the American print of the movie), Best Picture and Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium).
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