Thursday, June 19, 2008

All or Nothing (Mike Leigh, 2002) C+

Mike Leigh has a great eye (and ear) for the gritty and non-glamorous life of the working class, as he demonstrated so ably in both Secrets and Lies and Vera Drake. In All or Nothing, Leigh's eyes and ears are still in tune, but nothing else about the script or film really work. The main storyline involves taxi-driver Phil (Timothy Spall) and his wife Penny (Lesley Manville) and their marriage that has turned sour. When a medical emergency threatens one of their children, everything between the two comes to a head in a heated fight. This situation would be fine and dandy if we gave a rat's ass about either of the characters involved. Spall's Phil is an inane, blithering loser who couldn't form a complete sentence or look someone in the eye if his life depended on it. I don't know if I have something against Timothy Spall, but everytime I look at him I get annoyed. I thought Manville gives a good performance, but ultimately her character is just another shrewish wife that we've seen a hundred times before. There are a couple of other subplots going on in All or Nothing, including a potentially interesting one concerning a mother (Ruth Sheen) and her knocked up daughter (Helen Coker), but they are both dropped in the final half hour rather abruptly with no hints of a conclusion at all. A lot of people have attacked for All or Nothing for being "depressing," but I can deal with that (They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, possibly the biggest downer of a film I've ever seen is also one of my favorites). What I can't deal with is a sloppy, aimless script that has the potential to be good.

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