Saturday, August 06, 2011

All or Nothing

Written and directed by Mike Leigh, All or Nothing tells the story of three families living in working-class London as they each deal with the changes in their lives. Along the way, they all intersect to discuss their own lives and the messiness that is around them. Starring Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, James Corden, Alison Garland, Ruth Sheen, Sally Hawkins, and Daniel Mays. All or Nothing is a good although extremely dreary film from Mike Leigh.

Phil Basset (Timothy Spall) is a miserable cab driver who works on long hours day and night as a cab driver for a company run by Neville (Gary McDonald). His friend Ron (Paul Jesson) also works in the same company but always manages to get into some accident that leaves him ailing for money. Phil and Ron’s family life are messy as they each deal with their own world. Phil’s wife Penny (Lesley Manville) works as a supermarket cashier with friend/neighbor Maureen (Ruth Sheen) whose daughter Donna (Helen Coker) is in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend Jason (Daniel Mays). Penny’s daughter Rachel (Alison Garland) works at nursing home while her younger brother Rory (James Corden) is an angry, obese teenager who refuses to do anything.

Ron’s wife Carol (Marion Bailey) is an alcoholic always intoxicated while their daughter Samantha (Sally Hawkins) is a slacker trying to find work while dealing with a creepy stalker (Ben Crompton) near her apartment. Everyone works as they all try to deal with their day-to-day lives as Donna learns she’s pregnant making Jason very upset. When Maureen learns what happens, she tries to sort things out while Rachel is being flirted by an old man (Sam Kelly). On another typical day when Phil is working as he has a French woman (Kathryn Hunter) as a passenger. Phil has a realization about his life leaving him to shut off his phone and just drive somewhere. Yet, the timing turns out to be bad when a family emergency brings everyone together.

The film is about a trio of dysfunctional families living their lives in London as they all live in the same apartment building interacting with one another and go on with their lives. They all try to help each other while some are going through the motions of working and doing things when they work with the exception a few people who don’t really do anything. Yet, they’re all pretty miserable as the main focus is on the Basset family where there’s a couple whose marriage is pretty much on the outs which affects the family. The other two stories about a mother and her pregnant daughter and the other family who are an absolute mess help balance out the rest of the film.

Leigh’s story has the same kind of improvisational yet free-flowing feel that is common with all of his films since he doesn’t really use a script to tell the story. The problem with this film is that there’s not much to tell as the first act starts off very slow and almost becomes a bit repetitive though it seems like that is what Leigh is aiming for. At the same time, because everyone looks like a mess with the exception of a couple of scenes where one of them has Maureen and Penny go out to a club looking pretty clean and normal though Carol remains a mess. Throughout the story, there’s a lot of scenes where Phil drives his cab and deals with an array of passengers and comes home where Penny doesn’t seem to enjoy him around. For Phil, feeling unloved and unhappy would cause him to drift from everything but at the wrong time in the film’s climatic moment.

Leigh’s direction is pretty good as he keeps things straight in his direction. Yet, there’s a lack of style that happens throughout with the exception of a few scenes. Leigh is always creating something that is engaging about the way a family has dinner together or having a moment together. There is something that is compelling in what he tries to create though it starts off very slow where nothing is happening and it ends up becoming very depressing. Things do pick up in the film’s climatic moment that includes a very emotional scene in the realization about a family’s life. While the ending is a bit cheerful, it does feel a bit unresolved as far as the two other families are concerned though it’s open for interpretation about what could happen. Overall, Leigh creates something that is intriguing but lacks a lot of weight to keep things going.

Cinematographer Dick Pope does an excellent job with the photography in capturing the nighttime setting of London with a very gorgeous look while most of the film, with the exception of a scene at the beach, is very straightforward. Editor Lesley Walker does a good job with the editing as she maintains a mostly straight approach to the cutting while using fade-outs for the transitions to keep things movie.

Production designer Eve Stewart and art director Tom Read do fine work with the look of the film from the dreary apartments everyone lives in to the old folks home that Rachel works at. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran does nice work with the costumes by maintaining a mostly casual look that is very grimy while the clothes that Maureen wear the karaoke scene is pretty stylish. Sound editor Peter Joly doe some stellar work in capturing the sound for the various locations throughout the film including the chaos of the London streets. The film’s score by Andrew Dickson is pretty good for a lot of the smooth, orchestral pieces played in the film that adds a sense of melancholia throughout. Yet, it also becomes a bit aggravating as it’s always played in between many of the film’s transitions.

The casting by Nina Gold is really the highlight of the film as it includes some standout small performances from Diveen Henry as Neville’s sister, Gary McDonald as the cab service boss Neville, Kathryn Hunter as a French passenger, Sam Kelly as the old man that flirts with Rachel, Robert Wilfort as a doctor, and Ben Crompton as the creepy Craig. Other notable performances include Daniel Mays as the very abusive Jason, Marion Bailey as the often-intoxicated Maureen, and Paul Jesson as the frustrated Ron. Helen Coker is very good as the troubled yet abused Donna while Sally Hawkins is extraordinary as the sexy though lonely Samantha. Ruth Sheen is superb as Maureen, Donna’s mother who tries to help her daughter out while proving to be a tough, no-holds-barred woman who can get things in control and deal with Jason.

James Corden is excellent as Rory, an obese teenager who often spouts insults at his mother as he lazes around in the couch and smoke cigarettes only to finally get into some trouble. Alison Garland is brilliant as Rachel, a quiet young woman who works at a nursing home as she tries to keep things organized while being the one who watches her parents’ marriage break apart. Timothy Spall is great as Phil, a depressed cab driver who tries to cope with everything around him as Spall has a very dirty look where he is unshaven and hasn’t washed his hair. Finally, there’s Lesley Manville in a radiant role as Penny. A woman who tries to help out though she is unaware that she seems to be not really helping as she gives what is truly a heartbreaking performance.

All or Nothing is a decent though grim film from Mike Leigh despite an intriguing premise and a superb cast. While it’s a film that has a lot of Leigh’s unconventional storytelling ideas and intriguing study of characters and situations. It’s a film that doesn’t have much weight as it starts off very slow and tedious for about the first half only to pick up in the second half. It’s a film that isn’t among his greats like Naked, Secrets & Lies, and the films he made after this. Yet, it is still a compelling piece as All or Nothing is a film with some good moments that could only come from someone as revered as Mike Leigh.

Mike Leigh Films: (Bleak Moments) - (The Permissive Society) - (Knock for Knock) - (Hard Labour) - (Nuts in May) - (Abigail’s Party) - (Kiss of Death) - (Who’s Who) - (Grown-Ups) - (Home Sweet Home) - (Meantime) - (Four Days in July) - (High Hopes) - Life is Sweet - Naked - Secrets & Lies - Career Girls - Topsy-Turvy - Vera Drake - Happy-Go-Lucky - Another Year - Mr. Turner

© thevoid99 2011

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