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timothy spall in all or nothing

All Or Nothing

Starring Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Alison Garland, James Corden
Written and Directed by Mike Leigh

IN SHORT: Deliberately paced, finely acted, better than average art house fare. [Rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality. 127 minutes]

In which a family learns the meaning of having it all, even when they have economically nothing.

Negatives first, because writer/director Mike Leigh's film is better than its flaws: Even though they kind of sort of speak the same language, when blue collar Englishfolk get emotional and loud, we (Americans) can't understand a bloody word. Those situations are much like sitting through a film written in gangsta. We bear down and hang on tight until we can lock in on the language again. This problem doesn't surface a lot in All or Nothing, but enough that it took us longer than usual to properly identify the characters.

Now to the good stuff: This is a story of three families in what appears to be the Brit equivalent of public housing. Maureen (Ruth Sheen) and Penny (Lesley Manville) work as checkout clerks in a supermarket. Penny's mate, Phil (Timothy Spall), drives a taxi, as does his co-worker Ron (Paul Jesson), who could use a bit more of driving school. Ron's wife, Carol (Marion Bailey), spends most of her time nine sheets to the wind. Plastered. Drunk as a skunk. Unable to even dial a phone, if necessary (hint, hint). Carol and Ron's and Maureen's daughters have their own set of social problems which we'll leave you to discover as we focus on our ground zero family unit.

Phil could work harder than he does, but he likes to sleep late in the morning. His obese elder daughter, Rachel (Alison Garland), mops up after incontinent retirees in an elder home. His just as fat son, Rory (James Corden), has anger management problems and fights with the local kids. Phil and Penny's marriage has hit the stage where it isn't exciting or even interesting anymore. Phil has plenty of time to contemplate life and what he wants from it as he endures the babble of his passengers all the day long. He could work harder to raise the family's economic standing. He could make his years long common-law partnership legal or he could walk away. He could, after a seemingly endless ride across London with a wealthy old French chatterbox (Kathryn Hunter), drive to the ocean and contemplate walking in.

While he contemplates, something goes terribly, physically wrong in his family unit. The net effect is to push all the problems to the fore. Leigh lets his actors take their time with everything in this film. It's almost as if the economic and mental depressions physically manifest themselves in the viewing audience. All the performances are top notch and, once you get through the accents, All or Nothing becomes an emotional, though still positive, wrench of a sit. Let us be clear about that -- Mike Leigh's genius is his dialog. His writing contains one laugh out loud gem after another, all in reactions to otherwise awful circumstances. Remember that old line about an awful life not getting any worse? ("Hey, be happy! You could've been hit by a truck!"). All or Nothing is a notch above that. Spall's hangdog, bloodhound visage, you'll recognize the actor immediately if you've seen enough Britflicks, is a perfect match for his role as is the contrast of Manville's rail thin body next to her "family" of porkers.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to All or Nothing, he would have paid . . .


If your preferences run to the art house circuit, where All or Nothing will play and stay, it is recommended.

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