Bollocks

Another working-class English suffer-fest.

ALL OR NOTHING

written and directed by Mike Leigh

opens Nov. 1 at Seven Gables

MEET THE BASSETTS. Droopy, forlorn, and sad-eyed like the dog, the four members of the South London clan live in a horrid housing complex surrounded by horrid neighbors and work at horrid jobs. (Actually, the son is unemployed but meets his horrid quota by regularly telling his long-suffering mother, Penny, to fuck off.) Phil, the cab-driving patriarch, is a man so defeated by life that he forgets the word "dignity," which his bookish daughter kindly supplies for him. He's reduced to a beggar in his own home when scrounging a few quid for the pub.

Phil (Timothy Spall) and Penny (Lesley Manville) aren't actually married, but they've evidently been wilting together for a few decades. Only Penny has any spark left in her; she proposes an after-dinner walk one evening, but no one wants to leave the succor of beer, telly, and couch. Of course, even at the lower depths of the British proletariat, redemption is still possible.

All or Nothing finally resorts to a sickness ex machina device (one of the family suddenly takes ill), but by that time I found myself wishing for a rapid demise. There's a bit of comic relief from Phil's passengers in the cab, but it's overwhelmed with various go-nowhere subplots involving the Bassetts' wildly dysfunctional neighbors (alcoholism, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, etc.). "You disgust me!" one character exclaims, and I found myself laughing in agreement.

This kind of heaped-on English kitchen-sink miserablism has worked for Mike Leigh before (Secrets and Lies, Life Is Sweet), but not this time, despite the fine, naturalistic performances. One wretched slice of life is fine; an entire loaf is unappetizing.

bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
comments powered by Disqus