Probation (1975)

Probation is an early short film by British director Mike Leigh. One of five, The Five Minute Films made by Leigh for television. Of all the five minute films this is the only one to be, in essence, a punchline film. Two young men wait to see their parole officer. One of them, a young black fellow, is in for his first meeting. He’s been arrested for thieving, though he swears he’s innocent. His parole officer has heard it all before. He also tries to lighten the mood with an off-color comment that brings about cringes rather than laughs.

Of all five of Mike Leigh’s five minute films this feels the least fleshed out and yet also the most real. I am sure many young blokes have been in this young lad’s position, been forced to deal with the double-edged and racist humor, and could do very little about it.

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