All or Nothing

'Bleak' does not even begin to describe the events in All or Nothing. This movie marks a shift back to the depressing for writer/director Mike Leigh (Topsy-Turvy, Career Girls). Topsy-Turvy was a grand, bright movie, and All of Nothing is the antithesis. This is a difficult film to watch, partially because the situations and actors seem so real. The film chronicles the lives of some middle to lower class families living in an apartment complex in London. All are bound together by their proximity and the small amount of hope present in their lives.

Although the film takes time to focus on everybody, chief among the characters is Phil (Timothy Spall, Vanilla Sky, Rock Star), sullen patriarch and taxi driver. His eyes are leaden and his cheeks more affected by gravity than the rest of his body. He never seems to speak in more than a whispered dull monotone, and everything about him screams depression. He drinks at night after avoiding his home, and morosely drives around during the day. Life at home is either full of silence or screaming. Phil's wife Penny (Lesley Manville, Milk, Topsy-Turvy) is trying to keep the family together. Daughter Rachel (Alison Garland, Secret Society, Virtual Sexuality) is overweight and works at a dead-end job, and son Rory (James Corden, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?) is overweight and sits at home watching television.

Just to spread the sullenness around, Leigh delves into the lives of the surrounding families. Carol (Marion Bailey, Nasty Neighbors, Don't Get Me Started) is an alcoholic and her daughter Samantha (Sally Hawkins) is looking for trouble. Maureen (Ruth Sheen, Secrets and Lies, Different For Girls) is unable to connect with her daughter Donna (Helen Coker, The House of Mirth, Tube Tales), pregnant and stuck in an abusive relationship. Things move continually downward, until one big event happens that draws most of the principals together. Leigh should not, and does not end things on a happy note. This would ruin the tone and effect of the movie. Instead, he has a more neutral, ambiguous ending.

By doing this, Leigh keeps the tone of realism working within the movie. Part of what Leigh wants to show is that even with all the troubles, these families still stay together. The thing is, they need to figure out if they still love each other, or if they are together out of habit. All of the actors work well in that they may not be conventionally attractive. They really look like these people. And aside from some verbal hysterics, most of the time the actors seemingly embody the broken dreams of their characters.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 28 minutes, Rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality.

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