All or Nothing | Chicago Reader

All or Nothing

Mike Leigh's 2002 feature, a comic and moving examination of life in an impoverished South London housing complex, features marvelous performances, especially from Leigh stalwart Timothy Spall as a depressed London cabdriver, Lesley Manville as his equally depressed common-law wife, and the young actors playing their uncommunicative children. Leigh observes three quarrelsome families, all of whom start in relative misery (poor, alcoholic, abused) and suffer additional troubles (teen pregnancy, illnesses, more abuse). As things seem to be spiraling out of control, a domestic crisis provokes an anguished aria from Spall and an equally anguished, if muted, response from his wife. Unfortunately, after such daring and complex films as Naked, Secrets & Lies, and the unexpected Topsy-Turvy this feels like a step backward—a return to familiar, safe Leigh territory.

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