Along with Ken Loach, Mike Leigh is probably the greatest and best filmmaker to thematize the lives and destinies of the average Briton. The older I get, the more I love and appreciate the films of these two greats and their almost endless love and respect for the average, ordinary, almost invisible man. One almost perfect example of Leigh’s neorealism and the introduction of a typical British Kitchen Sink film into the 21st century is this emotional and realistic drama about the lives of several families from the poor London working class. “All or Nothing” premiered in the main program of Cannes, and we will take a peek here into the lives of three poor working class families in south London. And so many are typical lives for people of that status, full of unhappiness, loneliness, depression and work, and a little joy and satisfaction.
Phil (Timothy Spall) is a taxi driver, and Penny (Lesley Manville) is his treasurer wife who seems to feel nothing for her depressed, silent husband, whose face is enough to read dissatisfaction with life and the seemingly hopeless situation in which he is stuck. They have two fat, inconspicuous children. Retired and shy, Rachel is a cleaning lady in a nursing home, while Rory is a lazy teenager who just lies in front of the TV and eats, and the other kids tease him about being fat. In the adjoining apartments live Penny’s friends, Caol (Marion Bailey) and Maureen (Ruth Sheen) with whom she spends the weekend at a local pub. While Carol is a notorious alcoholic whose husband Ron also drives a taxi, Maureen is a single mother left by her Donna father (Helen Coker) as soon as she got pregnant.
A similar fate now smiles on waitress Donna, whose boyfriend Jason (Daniel Mays) doesn’t even want to hear about the baby, and there’s Donna’s daughter Samantha (Sally Hawkins) who likes to challenge men. Although they all know each other well, they only marry into each other’s lives and don’t look at other people’s work because they have too many worries anyway. But all of them are drawn out of this depressed and hopeless everyday life and lethargy by the tragedy that will happen in their neighborhood, after which everyone seems to start looking at life in a completely different way. Although the environment here and the fate of the characters is extremely gloomy, Leigh showed with “All or Nothing” that he is an unsurpassed master of human dramas and an equally excellent screenwriter and director who knows how to break the story with typical British black, bitter humor.
This is another in a series of smart, honest, realistic Leigh films about people like us or the way we meet every day somewhere on the street, but we don’t think about their worries and problems because we have too many worries anyway. About people who probably had dreams, desires and some ideas in their youth about what their lives might look like in 25 or 30 years, and now they are at the age when their children are grown up and they are aware that they are almost there identical destiny. As is often the case in realities, a tragedy will have to happen for all these people to somehow start, start thinking about priorities and understand what is important in life. The film is full of emotions, after which in the end the man somehow warms his heart and as usual, Leigh concludes the story with a touch of optimism and sunshine. Rating 8/10.
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