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RELEASED: 2002, Cert.18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 128 mins
WRITER/SCREENPLAY/DIRECTOR: Mike Leigh
PRODUCER: Simon Channing-Williams
MUSIC: Andrew Dickson
Timothy Spall as Phil Bassett
Lesley Manville as Penny Bassett
Alison Garland as Rachel Bassett
James Corden as Rory Bassett
Marion Bailey as Carol
Ruth Sheen as Maureen
Kathryn Hunter as Cecile
Helen Coker as Donna
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Despite me being a devout follower of Mike Leigh's work, until very recently when I managed to spot and buy a copy of the DVD, I'd not heard of All Or Nothing and was completely unaware of its existence. I naturally pounced on this DVD, kicking myself at somehow having blinked and missed it before, then settled nicely yesterday evening to watch an unknown element from my all-time favourite film writer/director.
All Or Nothing in its basic setup isn't dissimilar to most of Mike Leigh's work in that it concentrates on ordinary people living ordinary lives, particularly homing in on the working class.
The film is set in south east London, and centres mainly around the Bassett family. Phil Bassett is a minicab driver. He is of a rather dishevelled appearance, dreamy, preoccupied, slightly depressed and quietly-spoken - a man who amongst other things, is worried that he isn't making enough money to support his family. Penny, Phil's wife, is a supermarket checkout operator and there are two overweight teenage children in the family....Rachel, who has a job as a cleaner in a care home for the elderly, and unemployed Rory, who spends much of his time eating and lazing on the sofa watching TV. Rachel is a quiet, unassuming girl and Rory is the exact opposite...attitude-ish, hostile, demanding and defiant.
Penny is friendly with two other women who live on the same estate. Maureen is a single parent with a teenage daughter (Cecile) who announces she is pregnant by her nasty, aggressive, brutish creep of a boyfriend, and Carol is a woman with a serious drink problem whose daughter (Donna) is unhappy at home and seems to split her spare time between clearing up after her mother, fending off a really weird young guy who appears to have serious psychological problems and flirting with Cecile's grossly repugnant boyfriend.
That sets the very basis from which the film springs, and to learn more you must watch it for yourself.
As is usually the case with Mike Leigh's work, All Or Nothing is very much a character study rather than a story which has a beginning, a middle and an end, although there is a definite ending to this film with a catalyst that sparks off the means to the end.
The setting for All Or Nothing is depressing - possibly bordering on bleak despair - as three highly dysfunctional families struggle to cope with their day to day existence.
From the opening credits right until the close of the last frame, I was riveted to the screen and felt completely absorbed in the lives of the Bassetts, together with Penny's friends Carol and Maureen and their respective offspring. The film is hard-hitting, almost tragic, yet is simultaneously laid-back, if that is possible to imagine. There is one thing absent which is a common feature of most of Mike Leigh's work, and that is humour. I suppose the closest I got to raising a smile whilst watching All Or Nothing was observing the antics of the permanently inebriated Carol, but underneath that slight suggestion of humour is the realisation that she is a deeply unhappy woman who trudges her way through a seedy, miserable and totally washed-out life inside of which she oils the wheels of her existence by a serious over-indulgence in all things alcoholic.
The acting ability of all the main characters is mind-jarringly superbly wonderful, throughout. Mike Leigh is well known for choosing the very best of British actors for his films and plays, tending to utilise the same band of people over and over. Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen and Marion Bailey have all appeared in more than one of Leigh's productions, each actor playing a very different role each time.
Whilst watching All Or Nothing, I was almost falling over myself with wonder at the way Timothy Spall acted the part of Phil and I could almost feel his depression oozing out at me from the screen. More than anything, it was the constantly haunted, hunted expression in his eyes which made me wonder how far down the road of desperation he would travel during the course of the film. This is a particularly sensitive and heartfelt performance from Spall which I feel anybody who has a streak of and an understanding of depression within their own psychological makeup will firstly be able to identify with on an almost intimate level, and secondly could find themselves drawn into the grey cloud which seems to permanently hang over minicab driver Phil's head.
Lesley Manville splendidly delivers the character of Penny, a woman who is hanging on in there trying to hold a shaky family together whilst the love she has for her husband is gradually evaporating, the further he slides into his apathy and depression. Manville is a wonderful character actress who has the ability to completely take on any character she is required to play, entirely becoming the person, to the point where unless you read her name in the credits you won't realise it is her. Although I don't feel this is Manville's strongest performance out of everything I've seen her in, it certainly is the most involved and she does it perfect justice.
I also hand a couple of accolades to Marion Bailey for her brilliant performance as the drunk as a skunk Carol - Bailey is another actress who is able to completely transform herself into whatever part she is playing and I didn't realise it was her until I read her name on the cast list of my DVD sleeve. Ruth Sheen shone out more brightly for me than she usually does, and in All Or Nothing, she is one of these cheery "saves the day" type characters who despite her own damaged and desperate life, is able to rise above things, remain positive, and has a lot of strength to offer to those around her, plus her character exudes a depth amidst her outward persona of jolliness.
I must give a golden mention to the teenage characters in All Or Nothing as they also played their parts with profundity and subtle professionalism. Kathryn Hunter and Helen Coker as Cecile
and Donna respectively, deliver their parts with an edge which is typical of both modern teenage 'attitude' and that working-class London 'bite' yet each girl has a vulnerability hidden inside of her outwardly tough-nut image. Alison Garland was beautiful as the overweight, intelligent, shy, slightly depressed Rachel Bassett who feels pushed aside by the overbearing behaviour of her brother Rory, slightly unnerved by one of the male residents in the care home where she works trying to get to know her better than she's comfortable with and jarred by the constant bickering of her parents as Penny nags Phil to pull his socks up and work harder to support his family. James Corden shines forth as the aggressive, foul-mouthed, lazy and greedy Rory who seems to domineer the Bassett household with his irascible behaviour.
I can honestly say that All Or Nothing has had a profound effect upon me in a way that is very difficult to describe. Watching the film for me was much more than simply looking at moving pictures on a screen. I felt totally drawn into the story and situations, as if I was actually there and part of the whole process, observing as an onlooker. The slice from the lives of the characters within the film is totally accurate of how people out in the world in similar situations would behave, and there is no deviation at all from the gritty, realistic atmosphere which is constantly present throughout.
All Or Nothing isn't a film for people who prefer to be entertained in a light-hearted way, as there's nothing bright or breezy about it at all...it's a depiction of real life and must be taken and appreciated for that. There is quite a lot of heavy-duty swearing in the dialogue which some people could find offensive, but it isn't a problem for me at all - I simply feel it adds to the realism of the characters and situation. Everything about All Or Nothing is completely feasible and it wouldn't surprise me if there were families throughout our inner cities in the UK living very similar lives and having very similar experiences.
If you are a fan of Mike Leigh's work or simply like to watch something which is an absorbing, extremely well-acted, slightly depressing drama and can appreciate a fine degree of characterisation, then I'd strongly recommend All Or Nothing. It certainly has got right inside of me and firmly etched its place into my psyche to the point where I don't feel it will be long before I want to watch it again....and again, and again. I just wish I'd been made aware of it back in 2002 when it was first released.
All Or Nothing was nominated for 11 awards and walked away with two, one of those being Lesley Manville for best actress. I feel sad that neither Mike Leigh nor Timothy Spall had the same success, despite being nominated for best writer/director and best actor respectively.
At the time of writing, All Or Nothing can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £4.19 to £313.97 <<<< surely that second figure must be a mistake???
Used: two copies available at £3.48 and £3.49
A delivery charge of £1.26 must be added to the above figures.
A quick hunt through YouTube reveals that All Or Nothing has been uploaded in full onto the site in 13 parts, each lasting between 9 and 10 minutes, the final one being just over 4 minutes. I haven't checked the sound quality of this upload, but the picture does look a little grainy. There are a few clips/trailers which can be watched as samplers, and to search for the whole film or any of the clips/trailers, I'd recommend using the strategy "Mike Leigh's All Or Nothing", then paging through the results to locate what you want.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Mike Leigh movies are not everyone’s cup of tea – I realise that. I have always enjoyed watching them, perhaps as much because he features such brilliant actors, as because of their plots or the way they are directed. For me, movies with people like Alison Steadman or Timothy Spall – who are equally good on the big screen as they are on TV – are worth the price of admission regardless. But Mike Leigh movies usually have that added reason to go and see them. They are always bittersweet, - oddly tragic, or tragically funny – and usually very memorable. Leigh’s movie before “All or Nothing” was “Topsy Turvy”, the historical drama comedy about Gilbert and Sullivan. Now, this movie featured both Alison Steadman and Timothy Spall, as it happens, as well as other great actors such as Jim Broadbent. I have to say I found a lot of it tedious, but parts of it were highly enjoyable – and it won stacks of awards, so what do I know? “All or Nothing” is more of a return to Leigh’s standard territory. And it deals with what will be more familiar subject matter to most of us – family life. The movie stars Timothy Spall and Lesley Manville (again, she’s been in “Topsy Turvey” and Secrets and Lies” as well as many TV programmes – “Real Women” springs to mind). It takes place in a South London housing estate and deals with the goings on among a working class family, the Bassetts. Spall plays a taxi driver – he mumbles along, is obviously not happy with much in life. He’s obviously a gentle kind of soul, but deeply troubled. Manville plays his wife, Penny. Both have been ha
rbouring resentments over their lifetime, and when they have a lengthy talkout it’s extremely moving. Their two children are extremely lazy and rude. Alison Garland plays Rachel, the daughter, who works as a cleaner in an old people’s home. Lazy, and unemployed, son Rory (played by James Corden, who played a similar role in TV’s “Fat people”). The two of them are portrayed as blobby fat good-for-nothings, for the most part – not that this a movie that goes in for stereotyping. Neighbour Donna, played by Helen Coker, has a relationship Jason (Daniel Mays), a bit of a thug. Paul Jesson plays his workmate, another cabbie, and his wife Carol (Marion Bailey) is an alcoholic. The movie is basically the story of a few days in the lives of the family and their friends and neighbours. It features comedy, and it has a lot of pathos. Maybe some of the supporting characters seem a little on the superfluous, but well, that’s real life, too, isn’t it? Overall, I would recommend it. I’m a Leigh fan, though, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s definitely not an escapist/feelgood/light entertainment kind of movie, though. Cert 18 128 minutes long The DVD features interviews with cast members, as well as a commentary from Mike Leigh – all which is very interesting, partly because of the way he works as a director, getting actors to create the script as they go along, often. Currently at excellent bargain price of £6.97 on amazon.co.uk Great stuff, definitely one of Leigh’s best and that’s saying quite a lot.
A 2002 Mike Leigh drama, All or Nothing is at times almost unbearably bleak and poignant, yet funny, truthful and richly rewarding. The film's revolves around Timothy Spall's mini-cab driver, his family and the various characters and acquaintances on the South-east London estate where he lives. It's perhaps even better than Secrets and Lies, in which Spall also starred, which was marred a little by some of the tearful excesses of Brenda Blethyn's bravura performance. It's evidence that Leigh has matured and improved with age, rather than mellowed and softened. He's developed into a highly distinctive but rounded and humane filmmaker. Spall's cabbie is too gentle and thoughtful to be described as a slob, but his lack of even the most basic ambition and stoic non-resistance to life has created an unspoken rift between him and wife Penny (Lesley Manville). Working on a supermarket checkout, she must cook dinner and fend off insults from her fat, frustrated, obnoxious 18-year-old son Rory. She receives only passive sympathy from her older daughter Rachel. Only when Rory is taken ill is Phil snapped out of his torpor as the family pull together. A host of minor characters also feature; fatuous cabbie Ron (Paul Jesson) his alcoholic wife and sluttish daughter, as well as the wonderfully good-humoured and resilient Maureen, Penny's best friend, concerned at her daughter's relationship with a violent boyfriend. Once accused of caricaturing his "lower class" characters, here Leigh (with the collaborative assistance of his actors) exhibits them in all their authentic complexity, neither idealising nor sentimentalising them. On the DVD: All or Nothing's extras include the original trailer, as well as interviews with several members of the cast. Timothy Spall is interesting on the unnerving process of collaboration favoured by Leigh, whereby characters are "built from zero" by the actors. The smart and rather posh Lesley Manville strikes quite a contrast in real life with her mousey, put-upon character. There's also a meticulous and absorbing commentary from Mike Leigh, who talks about filming in Greenwich and how he has moved away from some of the more dogmatic ideas about filmmaking of his earlier, avant-garde days. --David Stubbs