It is widely recognized that students' vernacular engagements with a subject such as films can interfere with their willingness to make them an object of academic study. This essay reports the findings of a small action research project, funded by the Art, Design and Communication LTSN (now known as ADMHEA subject centre), which sought to test the effectiveness of an intervention in which students' own personal responses became part of the process of study. Using the controversial film A Clockwork Orange (1971), students' responses to the film and to the issues involved in studying it were measured at the beginning and the end of a year-long module. The research revealed some complicated patterns and differences in how students responded to the film itself, which make problematic any simple account of the relationship between personal and social significance in the film. It also indicated some important relationships between kinds of personal response to the film, and the willingness to allow these responses to be the topic of critical evaluation.