All or Nothing
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
all or nothing After his sparkling foray into period drama (Topsy-Turvy) British writer-director Leigh is back with yet another brilliantly observed examination of modern relationships and interaction. This one is set on a working class housing estate in London, where Phil (Spall) drives a cab, his common-law wife Penny (Manville) works in the local supermarket, their daughter Rachel (Garland) has a job in an old folks home and their fat son Rory (Corden) just sits around all day. It becomes quickly clear that Phil has basically lost his way in life, drifting along in a detached way that is driving Penny nuts. Meanwhile, we also get to know the neighbours: Maureen (Sheen) works with Penny and struggles to communicate with her feisty teen daughter (Coker), whose boyfriend (Mays) is a nasty piece of work indeed. And Ron (Jesson) is Phil's coworker, living with his alcoholic wife (Bailey) and nympho daughter (Hawkins).

Each of these characters goes through an emotional journey that is almost impossible to describe. They are all walking the knife-edge, clinging to a tiny shred of dignity and love but in danger of falling into complete and utter malaise. And the film's genius is capturing this so astutely, revealing these people in all their complexity without ever offering simplistic answers. We are thrust right into the intimacies of everyday life for these people, examining their interrelationships on almost every conceivable level, but never in a remotely obvious way. This is strong, difficult stuff, and it's played transparently by the actors, each of whom so completely inhabit their character that you believe they're real people. The standouts are Spall and Sheen, who draw us into their characters through humour and intelligence, each in a completely different way. Meanwhile, Leigh's expert writing and direction gives us profound insight into the relationships that even the characters themselves can't see. It's a remarkable film; the dialog takes our breath away with its sharp skewering of expectations and realities, the bleak honesty is balanced by the freshness of real life and moments of raw truth and comedy. It's also that rare character-driven film that grips us even though it only once resorts to a plot event to drive the "story." Don't miss it.

cert 18 adult themes and situations, language, violence 24.Sep.02

dir-scr Mike Leigh
with Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Alison Garland, James Corden, Helen Coker, Sally Hawkins, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Daniel Mays, Ben Crompton, Kathryn Hunter
release 18.Oct.02; US Oct.02
02/UK 2h08

Worn out. Penny and Phil (Manville and Spall) at the end of the day...

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall