Between HIGH HOPES (1988), a grimly humorous portrait of Thatcherite London, and the apocalyptic NAKED (1993), came this sometimes unsettling but essentially sweet-tempered feature from acclaimed British director Mike Leigh.
The film concerns a lower-middle-class family of more or less lovable eccentrics living in outer London. The woman of the house, Wendy (Alison Steadman), is perpetually busy and compulsively optimistic. Her husband, Andy (Jim Broadbent), is a chef employed in a large institutional kitchen. He's a
laid-back sort, inclined to tinker but never completing any of his initially ambitious projects. Wendy and Andy have twin daughters, Natalie (Claire Skinner) and Nicola (Jane Horrocks). Natalie is quiet, subdued and focused, an apprentice plumber. The bulimic Nicola, by contrast, is a sullen
university dropout intent on letting everyone within earshot know how awful life is and how much she hates living.
While hardly plot-driven, LIFE IS SWEET has its share of small events: Andy, intent on finally becoming his own boss, unwisely purchases a dilapidated mobile food stand; Nicola's disgusted lover (David Thewlis, soon to become famous as NAKED's mad anti-hero) walks out on her; Natalie quietly makes
plans for a trip to America; Aubrey (Timothy Spall), a farcically drawn friend of the family, makes last-minute preparations for the opening of his small restaurant; Andy suffers an accident at work which, if only temporarily, brings the family together.
A creative force on London's fringe theater scene since the 1960s, Mike Leigh made his feature directorial debut with the acclaimed BLEAK MOMENTS in 1971. This was followed by a 17-year hiatus, during which Leigh focused on TV and stage work, notably Abigail's Party and the BBC telemovies HARD
LABOUR, HOME SWEET HOME and FOUR DAYS IN JULY. While not to everyone's taste, Leigh's films have been hailed as a kind of "neo-Marxist Dickens." Not surprisingly, his forte is chronicling, with grace and economy, the vicissitudes of daily life among Britain's downtrodden. The well-rounded
characters who populate his films stem from extensive one-on-one collaborations with his actors, followed by group improv sessions from which his precisely structured scripts emerge.
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Between HIGH HOPES (1988), a grimly humorous portrait of Thatcherite London, and the apocalyptic NAKED (1993), came this sometimes unsettling but essentially sweet-tempered feature from acclaimed British director Mike Leigh. The film concerns a lower-midd… (more)