Wednesday, April 4, 2012

All or Nothing

All or Nothing; drama, UK/ France, 2002; D: Mike Leigh, S: Timothy Spall, Alison Garland, Lesley Manville, James Corden, Ruth Sheen, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Sally Hawkins

London. Phil lives a normal, but boring life: he works as a taxi driver and feels that his wife Penny does not truly love him. Their two kids are overweight: son Rory is aggressive and refuses to look for a job while daughter Rachel works in a retirement home where and older employee tries to seduce her. Their neighbor Donna has sex with a hooligan who leaves her when she becomes pregnant. One day, Rory has a heart attack which unites the family again.

Drama "All or Nothing" can be described as a dignified failure. Unlike the excellent "Secrets & Lies", this time director Mike Leigh did not manage to engage the viewer since his direction is at times too passive to entirely cover the grey storyline. Still, the nomination for the Golden Palm in Cannes was not given as a blank check since "All or Nothing" has its fair share of quality and follows Leigh's unglamourous "sub-genre" of social drama, i.e. showing an authentic mood underlined by improvised performances of strong actors, who play the rarely shown bleak side of British middle class bordering on lower class, whereas a few moments are refreshing (Donna is constantly on a diet, so her mother jokingly asks her if she wants "two or three french fries for lunch"). The relationships between the characters were believable and palpable (except for the relationship involving Donna and an annoying hooligan), but were not developed to maximally exploit it, and a certain amount of criticism should be directed towards a few arbitrary dramatic tangles (i.e. the young Rory suffering a heart attack).


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