starring Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Alison Garland, James Corden
written and directed by Mike Leigh
by Walter Chaw Mike Leigh's return to the character-driven nihilism of his astonishingly raw Naked is All or Nothing, a story of an apartment barrio in London where three broken lower-class families struggle to find meaning and happiness in the midst of their dreadful lives. Phil (the always-great Timothy Spall) is a woebegone taxi driver living with mousy Penny (Lesley Manville) and their corpulent children: deeply troubled Rory (James Corden), and Rachel (Alison Garland), the most affecting role amongst a passel of affecting roles. Neighbour Maureen (Ruth Sheen) sings Crystal Gayle songs on karaoke night while her wayward daughter runs in with the wrong boy and finds herself in a bad way, while housing development lush Carol (Marion Bailey) spends her days in a vodka-sotted haze. When a tumultuous event reveals each character's true value under crisis along with all that long-submerged unhappiness, All or Nothing has the opportunity to sink into the mire of pat resolutions and sentimentality. Instead, the picture offers no easy answers and, for every glimmer of hope, an overbearing burden of the frank probability that inertia will rule the day. Hard, uncompromising, and tracing a non-linear narrative track, All or Nothing is full of an indefatigable conviction and the kind of vertiginous unpredictability that makes for enthralling--and edifying--viewing. After the frothy excess of the almost-unwatchable Topsy-Turvy, Leigh crafts something here on the other end of the spectrum: spare, unsentimental, moody, and, like many films of this skill and observation, really funny.
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