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All Or Nothing (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000047104
Added by: Sue Davies
Added on: 3/5/2003 21:39
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    Review of All Or Nothing

    9 / 10


    I`ve only seen one or two of Mike Leigh`s films and the one I remember having the greatest effect on me was `Abigail`s Party` in which civilisation rapidly breaks down around the canap├ęs. He`s amassed a considerable filmography since then but has stayed true to his methods of allowing his ideas to ferment into a script only once he has got his actors on board. `All or Nothing` returns to the domestic battlefield but this time a long way down the social ladder. It is full of people for whom non-communication has always been a way of life. They follow patterns set for them by society and are unable to break out. This film has a look at a man who has become a passive observer of his own life and is only jolted into action by a near tragedy.

    Phil (Timothy Spall) sees life from his mini cab. He is a gentle man, and a soft touch for those who claim to have no fare. At one point he even suggests to a woman she might not have enough money to pay. He wants to do the right thing. However his desire to help does not mean he works any harder. At the end of the week he is humiliated into asking his daughter and wife for the change from their purses so he can scrape together enough money to pay his mini-cab radio rent. His wife Penny (Lesley Manville) is almost in despair over their situation. They seem to live from one day to the next. Their overweight son is drifting and any attempts by Penny to find out his plans are met with a mouthful of abuse. Their daughter although performing a menial job in an old people`s home manages to rise above it all and maintains her own peculiar dignity. She escapes from her lonely life by burying her head in paperback novels.

    On a council estate that looks well past its sell by date, several families live together with grim determination. Far from being bound by their common lot there is no sense of a community, just a desperate sadness. The young people in particular are going nowhere and appear to be trapped into repeating the mistakes of their parents.

    Mike Leigh`s latest film shows what happens when your dreams die and all you have left is each other and then you discover you don`t have that either.

    The talented cast includes Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Paul Jesson and Sam Kelly in a serious role for once. James Corden (of Fat Friends fame) makes his film debut as Phil`s son with the uncannily similar Alison Garland as his daughter. With those honourable mentions it has to be said that every member of the cast puts in a perfect performance. There are some particularly unpleasant characters that make you realise just how good these people are.


    The picture quality is good with a lovely clear transfer from the original. This is important because these pictures tell part of the story. The look of the film is part of the grim reality of life and death for the characters. The cinematography is precise with almost every shot a work of art.

    The use of external locations really sets the mood of the film. This is London at its most depressed.


    The dialogue seems to move between dancing around any show of emotion to full on body blows. In certain scenes it feels as if the participants are inflicting physical pain on each other. It is a very `live` and lived in performance and appears to be in the moment. It is not just painful but in many scenes very beautiful. On a girl`s night out, Maureen, a friend, neighbour and work colleague of Penny`s steps up to the karaoke microphone and launches into a soulful rendition of `Don`t it make your brown eyes blue` and her life is on the stage with her. Maureen`s conversations with her teenage daughter, Donna, have an incredible rhythm and life about them.

    The strength of this film is the supporting characters that fill out the central story and although the main family reach a kind of conclusion the other stories are slightly left hanging basically because this is not a film about happy endings but about how life has to carry on no matter what.

    The script is simply superb with some incredible performances by the actors. The music soundtrack fits in perfectly as it underplays the tragedy of their everyday lives.

    The language is very earthy and quite disturbing for those of you with a sensitive disposition and this earned it an 18 certificate in the cinema. The language at times makes it feel like a very violent film although there is little actual violence.


    There are some worthy extras the most interesting of which is the director`s commentary. Mike Leigh seems to work in a unique way, giving his extras plenty of time to take on the mantle of their characters. I had always thought that his films were heavily improvised but his commentary discusses the intensive rehearsals and planning that goes into every scene.

    Also included are interviews with the cast.

    Theatrical trailer
    Trailers are a curiosity in themselves. They often offer a view of the film completely unlike what you actually see.


    It`s quite a bleak film but I don`t want to discourage you from watching it because of that. There is much within the film that demands attention.
    It deserves at least a rent even if you think it`s not your cup of tea because it is such a fine example of British cinema. It is not full of `mockneys` but has a much more raw edge. The performances, the quality and feel of the film are first rate. The violence is uncomfortable and edgy as it should be. Words have not been pasted on here but really felt and worked through. It`s just brilliant.

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