Fancy a real downer? SECRETS & LIES's writer/director Mike Leigh is back with
ALL OR NOTHING, another one of his depressing tales of working-class life in
Britain. He lays it on so thick this time that it feels like a suicide race.
Who will it be first? Will a member of the audience or one of the characters in
his movie become so affected by the morose story that he takes his life?
This much is certain -- even if the movie is a bit much, the acting is uniformly
excellent. Although Timothy Spall, as taxi driver Phil Bassett, has the
showiest part, Lesley Manville, as his wife Penny, steals the picture with her
quiet compassion and her repressed anger.
The Bassetts live in graffiti-infested public housing along with other members
of the story. From alcoholism to heart attacks, the characters face a world of
troubles. American audiences may have difficulty parsing some of the dialog
given the thick accents and the proclivity of the actors to mumble their lines
just above a whisper. Fights are good since these are loud and easy to
understand. Leigh is so gifted at capturing facial images that the dialog
frequently takes a backseat anyway. And speaking of backseats, the best parts
of the picture are all of the vignettes of the passengers in Phil's cab.
My audience laughed a lot, but I found the film relentlessly bleak. For me, its
message is best summed up by Phil when he tells one of his fares, "We're all
going to die one day." Watching ALL OR NOTHING, it felt like it would be sooner
rather than later.
ALL OR NOTHING runs too long at 2:08. It is rated R for "pervasive language and
some sexuality" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes