All Or Nothing (18)

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The View Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/10/2002

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 128 mins

Well-acted, with one or two decent moments, but there’s nothing here that both Leigh and Spall haven’t done to death elsewhere.

Mike Leigh’s last film, the excellent Gilbert & Sullivan period drama Topsy Turvy, was a welcome deviation from what we’ve come to expect from anything bearing the stamp “A Mike Leigh Film”. However, All Or Nothing is exactly what we’ve come to expect from ‘A Mike Leigh Film’ – salt-of-the-earth working class types, a lot of – possibly improvised - moaning about life, the odd one-liner and a bucket load of misery. Welcome to MikeLeighWorld.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Timothy Spall’s put-upon mini-cab driver, Phil Bassett. (The name is surely no coincidence – Spall’s demeanour resembles that of a Bassett hound throughout).

Depression, Nagging, Frustration

Phil is a bit depressed because he can’t make enough money to support his nagging, frustrated wife Penny (Lesley Manville) and his two overweight kids – lazy, workshy good-for-nothing Rory (James Corden, also known as ‘That Fat Bloke That Was In Hollyoaks’) and quiet, unassuming Rachel (Alison Garland), who has her own job in a nursing home.

Other, better subplots involve Penny’s friend and neighbour Maureen (Ruth Sheen, effortlessly stealing the film) and her daughter’s ill-advised relationship with a no-good, violent boyfriend. And that’s it, really. There’s a suspected heart attack, but even that doesn’t pan out the way you desperately want it to.

Seen It All Before

Leigh’s movies are supposedly developed through ‘extensive character-based improvisation work’ once he’s cast his actors. Just how much of this is true, it’s impossible to say, but there’s unquestionably a feeling of ‘seen it all before’ about All Or Nothing. Which is fine, obviously, if you’re hankering after Secrets & Lies 2: More Secrets, More Lies…

It’s true that Timothy Spall is brilliant at what he does. If you want someone to play a fat, not-too-bright, miserable yet good-hearted loser, Timothy is your man. This is Spall’s fourth collaboration with Mike Leigh, so Mike obviously has a particular need of Spall’s brand of loveable loser. (There’s a very good reason why Naked is Leigh’s best film).

Redemption From The Lesser Roles

In the end, it’s the supporting characters that redeem All Or Nothing, particularly Ruth Sheen, who gets all the best lines and really ought to get better roles after this. Of all the characters, she’s definitely the most likeable, even if you do find yourself wondering where her chin has got to.

In fact, the story of Sheen’s daughter and the local nutter who’s obsessed with her, and the story of Rachel’s odd relationship with co-worker Sam Jones are infinitely more compelling than the Phil / Penny / Rory storyline, and yet they’re either inexplicably dropped or just left partially resolved.

In short, if you’re a fan of Mike Leigh’s films, then you’ll probably enjoy All Or Nothing, though, after the success of Topsy Turvy it’s a shame he didn’t attempt to confound audience expectations in a similar way. And, if you’re new to Mike Leigh, then this is as good a place as any to start, but be prepared to feel every minute of that 128 minute running time…

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All Or Nothing (18)
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Content updated: 26/09/2015 08:28

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