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All or Nothing

August 24, 2010

All or Nothing (2002)
Director: Mike Leigh
Actors: Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Alison Garland

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Synopsis: The lives and dramas of a cross-section of people who live on a South London council estate.

Review: This is a majestically acted and brilliantly scripted drama, detailing the dysfunctionalities of a selection of maladjusted families in a South London council estate. As per usual with Leigh films, the behavioural detail and psychological arc of each character is meticulously explored, and the narrative organically emerges from these detailed background sketches to reach a moving climax. Once again, Timothy Spall shines as the living embodiment of a certain type of London working-class dignity, and of the support cast, special mention should go to Ruth Sheen’s pitch-perfect portrayal of the one character with true grace in the film, and Alison Garland’s nuanced turn as Spall’s character’s painfully shy and introverted daughter. If at times, as is often the criticism with Leigh, the drama seems a little too clinical and deliberated, then he can be forgiven for the tangible sense of epiphany he has wrought by the film’s end. (May 2006)

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