ALL OR NOTHING
Mini cab driver Phil Bassett (Timothy Spall) and his de facto, Penny (Lesley Manville), live in working class misery with two troublesome children (Alison Garland, James Corden) in an oppressive suburban London housing estate. Incidents and accidents in the daily routine of life pile up and exaggerate the complexities and difficulties of their relationships with each other, with the kids and with their neighbours and co-workers. Phil finds it all almost unbearable and drives off in search of … he doesn’t know. But the universe won’t answer his silent pleas for help.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It struck me during the last quarter of All Or Nothing that when it came to the specifics of the central relationship between Timothy Spall’s Phil Bassett and Lesley Manville’s Penny, you could re-locate the film in just about any country, any culture, any language and not lose any of the emotional essence. Of course, the cultural setting would alter the resonances and the specifics, but the underlying humanity is absolutely universal. It is here the film really works for me, full of intense but subtle shifts of emotional dynamics, well observed, well performed and directed. Intense in its evocation of the central relationship and its see-sawing drama, All Or Nothing captures the senseless cruelty of fate, if you can call it that, which drives wedges between people. But the first three quarters of the film is Mike Leigh repeating himself a bit, taking us into working class suburban London where the circumstances of life are as depressing and hopeless as the refugee camps scattered around the world. Here, the refugees are social outcasts in their own culture. Timothy Spall’s muted character is problematical with little evident motivation for most of his actions, and while the drama that focuses the Phil/Penny relationship is an acceptable device, a device it remains. Leigh fans won’t complain too much, but those who expect him to use his great cinematic skills to push the edges will be left a little flat.
Review by Louise Keller:
‘Love is like a dripping tap,’ says Phil. ‘The bucket is either half empty or half full.’ Mike Leigh’s All Or Nothing is about love, life and all the relationships that matter. Leigh masterfully takes us right into the nitty gritty of the lives of a working class family, their neighbours and colleagues to give us a close-up, no-holds barred view. One of the things that struck me right from the very beginning of the film is the way the soundtrack using guitar, strings and flute are used as a counterpoint against the interaction of the characters. The settings are grim, the characters are going through difficult times and life is very tough. Yet the music seems to cut through the hardship with a sharp contrast. Much of the film comprises short scenes showing all the characters in different situations. Eating, watching telly, karaoke at the local club, flirting with the local idiot, going through the mundane motions of work and the harsh reality of what Saturday night brings (or doesn’t bring). It’s a slice of life that we keenly observe allowing us to fully understand the predicament the characters are in. Tempers are short and there’s bickering, calling of names (‘you silly cow’) and expletives (f**k off) come easily. Everyone is a lost soul. The focus is Phil and his family. Phil works as little as possible and spends most of his work day listening to the passengers in his cab babble, whine, complain, chat and make excuses with a pained expression on his face. Penny works long hours at the supermarket and is frustrated by her unemployed, layabout (overweight) son who seems to spend all his life eating or watching television. Daughter Rachel is a sad, solitary figure who slumps around in the home for the elderly where she works; her only admirer is lonely Sid with whom she works and is older than her father. Neighbour Carol has an alcohol problem, as does her husband, while their bad-girl daughter is provocative and a blatant flirt. Another neighbour Maureen (with the pretty singing voice) works with Penny; her daughter has an abusive, obnoxious boyfriend. All the characters are beautifully brought to life by a superb ensemble cast, headed by Timothy Spall, whose hangdog face and expression will break your heart. A single event suddenly impacts on everyone’s life, and a there is a crisis in Phil and Penny’s relationship. The build up and the resolution is overwhelmingly moving, and although the scene between Phil and Penny may not seem the most romantic in our memory, it is memorable and hugely heartfelt. Although the characters may belong uniquely to South-East London, the emotions, inhibitions, problems and concerns are universal. At first glance, All Or Nothing may seem depressing, but in fact uplifts us, when the humdrum is interrupted by the possibility of a dream.
Email this article
ALL OR NOTHING (MA)
CAST: Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Alison Garland, James Corden, Ruth Sheen, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Sam Kelly
PRODUCER: Simon Channing-Williams
DIRECTOR: Mike Leigh
SCRIPT: Mike Leigh
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dick Pope
EDITOR: Lesley Walker
MUSIC: Andrew Dickson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Eve Stewart
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 10, 2003 (all states, except Tasmania - May 8, 2003)
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: September 10, 2003