Monday, December 01, 2008

"All or Nothing" (2002) - Movie Review

Where does the love and the spontaneity wither away when the long stretch of marriage seem to extend forever? Is there an hour glass of sand dripping its molecules of affection into the bottomless end of its other half oblivious of that fact? The great length of time which diminishes the stains of the pain also has the power to deposit the dusts in unforeseen corners in the houses of crooked walls and moulded doors. This is the vacuum of suffocation the middle aged couple Phil (Timothy Spall) and Penny (Lesley Manville) have in Mike Leigh’s “All or Nothing”.

In the silence of a household lies the inability to address the problem. Phil works as a taxi driver while Penny works in Safeway. They have an obese, rude and bum as a son named Rory (James Corden) doing nothing but also have a sweet big girl Rachel (Alison Garland) working in a nursing home. Penny has an aura of dislike towards her husband. She is cold and distant when he comes by and acknowledges with minute spells of frown which is not a yell nor a nicety. It is a speck of bitterness sprayed along with innuendoes that she could have done better than Phil.

Her unhappiness does not have to been inflicted by the inability of Phil to make her satisfied. Rather it is the responsibility of the monetary balance and maturity boding as a character of seriousness which has made her into this dim lit mother of this house. This does not spare Phil as he mumbles his despair of being lonely in a family to his customers giving us a taste of the characters he meets in a day.

In the meantime we see a cheery and optimistic colleague of Penny, Maureen (Ruth Sheen) with rebellious daughter Donna (Helen Coker). As Rory, Donna rains swear and despise towards her mother to leave her alone and let her be. Unlike Penny Maureen converts every one of those into a joke of her own. Donna has a ruffian boyfriend Jason (Daniel Mays) who freaks out when he learns Donna is pregnant. Maureen does not need much of an explanation after seeing a bruised Donna and figures out the rest. She protects her daughter with a swiftness and empathy only a mother could do.

There is another family Leigh focuses on which is Phil's fellow mate Ron (Paul Jesson) and his perennially inebriated wife Carol (Marion Bailey). They have a daughter Samantha (Sally Hawkins) again the do-nothing in the family. She teases Jason and a stalker Craig (Ben Crompton) as if to feel alive. She is constantly in hurt from her parents and her way out is to play the teasing of love and affection to the opposite sex.

Leigh mixes these three families with a bit more analyze on Phil and Penny. As with most of his films Leigh has a beat for the middle class of London. And every time he finds an apartment with a flavour of its own. In its closed space and too many people evolves a stress with no effort. People constantly escaping other's faces to look away while they live under the same roof.

The running of family in the reality of money and responsibility whitens in a mellow fashion the love which has united them. Paying the school fees, finding the right dresses and the constant fear of the future has cuffed the members of moderately financed family. The hard work develops a pride and expectation from every one around them to contribute above and beyond as they keep forgetting the bond which keeps them together. In "All or Nothing" it is that building up of pressure bursting into tears for Phil and Penny.

Timothy Spall is splendid as this soft spoken and sympathizing dad. He goes to his son and in a nice calm way asks to roll over the couch to look for the smashed up pound. Then he knocks on his daughter's door and asks her some money and look at him while he gets it. His inside little shame comes out in his body language. He then goes to Penny and how cheaply she looks down and treats him in giving the money. The money is for the rent to his boss. Phil has lost his interest and became a matter of indifference forgetting everything around him. He feels his family especially his wife is riding as a customer in his taxi waiting for her destination while he loves her to the deepest.

Leigh's film is a great skill of ambidexterity in handling reality of life and artistry of film making. He gives us the feel for the job these people do. He did the behavioral work of the customers coming for portrait in "Secrets and Lies" while we see the flurry characters of customers in "All or Nothing" coming to the backside seat of Phil's taxi. Each we identify, empathize and also resemble a lot like us in frustrations, murmur and silence. The love of Leigh's film is reaching the peak of mine as it goes for Paul Thomas Anderson and Sam Mendes. The strange thing is that Leigh has been directing great films from 1971 starting with his "Bleak Moments" while Mendes and Anderson are the product of the 90s. For me it is a little late but if I could do a bit in exposing this great director to the readers I would feel atoned for not knowing Leigh all this time.

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