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Mike Leigh's very watchable 1988 bulletin from Thatcher England centers on a posthippie working-class couple in London named Cyril (Philip Davis) and Shirley (Ruth Sheen), both beautifully conceived and realized, as well as Cyril's mother (Edna Dore), his middle-class sister (Heather Tobias) and brother-in-law (Philip Jackson), and his mother's yuppie next-door neighbors (Leslie Manville and David Bamber), most of whom live around King's Cross (the texture of everyday life in late-80s London is precisely rendered). Leigh tends to satirize and even caricature the upper-class characters, but the jabs are generally pointed and accurate, and the overall construction of this episodic movie is deft and ingenious, pointing up parallels and contrasts in the sexual habits of the three couples and making interesting connections between other characters as well. Alternately bleak and hilarious, saddening and refreshing, this very political reflection on the state of England is not to be missed.

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