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All Or Nothing

28 Feb

All Or Nothing – directed by Mike Leigh – Drama. Neighbors in a London project come to grips with their futures. 2 hours 8 minutes Color 2002.

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Don’t you love Mike Leigh’s films? Such a storyteller, isn’t he? In this one we have Timothy Spall and Ruth Sheen and Lesley Manville and a bunch of other fine actors giving us full value in a beautifully directed story. It’s the story of a group of people stupefied by their circumstances. It’s one of those pictures you cannot put down – until … Until the crucial event which takes it into the realm of the lachrymose. Of course, Leigh has great tolerance for sobbing women. Brenda Blethyn was the champ sobber. And in this film he lets Lesley Manville start to cry in the last reel and never stop.  There’s two things wrong with that decision. The first is that weeping is quite out of character for the woman we have watched for an hour and half, a woman absolutely dumbstruck by the barriers of her life, a woman staring into desolation; she’s in a state too deep for tears. Her instinct might be to grow ruthless; her instinct would not be to drench everyone in sight.  To dissolve into the piteous, is not the way she would go. The second thing wrong with it is that Timothy Spall has a crying scene at the same time, and you can’t have two people crying at once; they cancel one another out. But there’s a missing washer in Manville’s tap; she never stops dripping, and it fouls Spall’s scene. She can be a great actress and is so in the early part of the film, but it’s an example of an actress turning on her technique and losing her character. It’s really the director’s fault for allowing it. The scene also is badly edited. It should not be edited at all; the camera should remain entirely on Spall, and then let’s take a look at the wife’s response. I think Leigh loses his way with this material; he wanders into a sentimental rapprochement, and somehow I don’t think that’s the road to trudge here. But until then it is a heavenly picture, a cast beautifully rehearsed and free. Spall is Humpty-Dumpty after the fall, a wonderful performance of a brained man. The extraordinary Sally Hawkins is also fully present as the locale slattern, and what could be better than what Ruth Sheen has to offer? Nothing that I can think of. See it. Make it part of your Mike Leigh collection.

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