All or Nothing

Director: Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh’s latest film is another acutely observed slice of human drama, set on and around a South London housing estate over the course of a long weekend. Penny (Lesley Manville) works in a supermarket, despairing of her partner Phil (Timothy Spall), a resignedly unambitious taxi driver, and worrying about their two teenage children, Rachel (Alison Garland) and Rory (James Corden), both overweight and both as apparently directionless as their dad. Their neighbours include Penny’s colleague Maureen (Ruth Sheen), defiantly cheerful but fiercely defensive of her daughter, who’s tied to a violent boyfriend; and the hapless, permanently sloshed Carol (Marion Bailey), the wife of one of Phil’s fellow drivers.
From a bleak portrait of this group of characters and their lives of quiet desperation, the film gradually homes in on the relationship between Penny and Phil. With no real communication either between the two of them or with their kids, their family situation deteriorates almost to the point of tragedy.
Though the intricate ensemble structure of All or Nothing might suggest superficial similarities with Secrets and Lies, it’s also shot through with more than a little of the melancholy of Leigh’s earliest work. In place of the escalating comic chaos and emotional fireworks of the climax to Secrets and Lies, events here work towards a more low-key denouement. Devised with great tenderness and precision, and beautifully played by Lesley Manville and Timothy Spall, it’s a genuinely cathartic conclusion to a film which, even by Leigh’s standards, is exceptional in its insight and fellow-feeling.o. (U.K.-France, 2002. Colour. Dolby/dts digital stereo. 128 mins.

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