REVIEW: Working Class Heroes; Mike Leigh Returns to Contemporary Misery With "All or Nothing"
by Peter Brunette
[EDITOR’S NOTE: indieWIRE originally published this review in May 2002 as part of our Cannes coverage. United Artists released the film on Friday.]
(indieWIRE/05.20.02) — After a brief and uncharacteristic detour into the splashy colors of the late 19th century in “Topsy-Turvy,” his 1999 film about Gilbert and
Sullivan, British director Mike Leigh once again finds himself among the
monochromatic, damned denizens of the contemporary London underclass he
seems to know and love so well. “All or Nothing,” while not up to the
aesthetic or emotional level of his similarly-set triumphs like “High
Hopes,” “Naked,” and “Secrets and Lies,” is actually even more unrelievedly
grim than these earlier films. Nonetheless the film ends on a positive note,
providing a deeply involving, if not finally completely convincing
validation of the power of love to transcend the insistent misery of human
life, particularly its working-class variety.
The inhabitants of Leigh’s housing project are ugly, both in appearance and,
for the most, in character as well. The men are overweight and slovenly, and
the women doll themselves up in almost calculatedly unflattering hairdos.
Their world is one of relentless misery and misunderstanding, unremitting
anger, and barely-concealed violence that seems poised on a hair trigger,
ready to burst into view at any moment. Even the young seem defeated by this
world before they