After his ambitious foray into the Topsy-Turvy world of Gilbert & Sullivan, Mike Leigh returns to more familiar territory. Unfolding during several days on a south London council estate, All Or Nothing is one of the director's signature ensemble pieces, expertly marrying comedy and pathos.
Leigh regular Timothy Spall plays bewildered minicab driver Phil Bassett. He's a gentle man who's struggling to keep going in the face of life's hardships, and his sorry plight is fast exhausting the patience of his partner, Penny (Lesley Manville). Nor is the outlook bright for the couple's two overweight children: the withdrawn Rachel (Alison Garland) is a cleaner at an old people's home, while the unemployed, vociferously belligerent Rory (James Corden) has an inherited heart condition...
An intricately plotted relationship drama that weaves together the lives of the Bassetts and their neighbours, All Or Nothing grips, enthrals and moves. Admittedly, a couple of the supporting figures - a drunk middle-aged woman and the neighbourhood loner - feel superfluous, but that's a minor quibble in the face of such quality thesping and subtle directing. The action is especially compelling when it concentrates on the Bassetts, and a lengthy confrontation between Phil and Penny, in which both express a lifetime of resentments, is almost indescribably moving.
Put down your popcorn and feast on your clenched fist instead. It's worth it.
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