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All or Nothing (18)



Review by: Simon Bell | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary with Mike Leigh; Interviews with cast and crew; Theatrical trailer.

CERTAINLY not as bright and chiruppy as Topsy-Turvy (1999), the demeanour of this landscape - desolate blocks of council estate flats, cheap caffs and pokey cab offices - is unmistakably grey: Definitely more a cousin to the downtrodden of Secrets & Lies than a relative of the big-hearted celebration that makes up Mike Leigh's foray into the arena of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Three families, neighbours on a South London estate, face varying degrees of everyday crises on an everyday basis. Timothy Spall is Phil, a minicab driver on the brink, whose missus, Penny (Lesley Manville), seemingly doesn't love him anymore.

Their two fat kids, Rachel (a cleaner at an old people's home) and Rory (with behavioural problems) have predicaments of their own to consider.

Meanwhile, Penny's fellow Safeway checkout girl, Maureen (Ruth Sheen), is a single Mum to Donna, in turn pregnant by abusive boyfriend, Jason.

Add to the mix Phil's mate, cabbie Ron (who smokes like a chimney), his wife, Carol (alcoholic and beyond redemption?) and their bored and jobless daughter, Samantha.

Anyway, you get the picture. Anyone vaguely familiar with Leigh will no doubt know what to expect.

Anyone thinking this might make the film predictable, though, would be grossly mistaken.

Probably his most barren and comfortless portrait of modern British life so far, the movie is inflected with necessary moments of light relief in the form of, for example, a sad-but-true depiction of a working men's club karaoke session. (Check out the guy trying his hand at Tom Jones in the background).

The characters themselves are as solid as can be, with not one cast member hitting a bum note. Spall aside (he's up to his usual best as the droopy-drawed loser), Manville and Sheen are outstanding. Both desperate for some light in their lives, one remains warm and forgiving while the other falls to pieces.

There's a few final scenes of redemption at the end for anyone who makes it that far; In the outcome, all's well and good at Bleak House.

Finally, All or Nothing just might be Mike Leigh's strongest offering to date.

 

 

 

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