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Nil by Mouth
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Reviews & Ratings for
Nil by Mouth More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

technically excellent - but is it entertainment?

Author: Melm from Burlington, Ontario
18 April 2000

I have to concur with some of the other commentators - Nil by Mouth is a strange movie. It's depiction of S London council slums is very gritty, the acting is very credible. It's the story or lack of one that I find hard to get my head around. It doesn't go anywhere - the ending is extremely weak, leaving more loose ends than ever. I was under the misapprehension that a "serious calamity" was going to befall one of them which was supposed to be pivotal, but without giving the storyline away, the pivotal part of the movie was knocked off balance by the disappointing ending. I found this movie strangely compelling- I kept wondering to myself why I was bothering to perservere with the excessively foul language and the dark photography but it was gripping for some unexplicable reason. However the ending spoiled a lot for me and that's why despite the excellent acting I could only give this a 7 - at the end of the day I watch movies to be entertained and while that can be achieved by a variety of genres, not all light, not all funny, this movie fails to entertain

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4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Certainly not the best British film ever made!

Author: Andrew Cox from Bolton, England
3 November 1998

I find myself strongly disagreeing with the other users. 'Nil by Mouth' was a bleak, desolate and ultimately nihilistic film. Gary Oldman is utterly self-indulgent and enjoys showing people wallowing in degradation. He also commented that the film was a study of 'machismo' and Ray Winstone's character is used as an attack on this supposedly masculine vice.

The technical work is very good and the camera work skilfully conveys the grim reality of south London council estates. However this film lapses into cultural relativisation and contains few real insights into why people can act with such brutality. 'Nil by Mouth' has received such high praise for its focus on victimhood. At the end of the film the family are reunited as victims. Unfortunately today the 'victim' as opposed to the 'heroic' is treated as the most worthy cultural motif and the only thing we can aspire to be.

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2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Nil by Mouth

Author: Jackson Booth-Millard from United Kingdom
30 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was the directorial debut from the great actor Gary Oldman, who based the story on many events in his past life, it is not autobiographical, but it is compelling enough to make you question what parts were from his personal life. I should start by saying that the title relates to something to do with not being allowed to eat anything before an operation, I think, it would make sense for scenes in the film. Anyway, basically it focuses on a working class family in the London district, with Ray (BAFTA nominated Ray Winstone), his wife Valerie (BAFTA nominated Kathy Burke), her brother Billy (Charlie Creed-Miles), and also Val's mother Janet (EastEnders' Laila Morse, Oldman's older sister) and grandmother Kath (Edna Doré). We see Ray on a night boozing in the pub, going to a casino and strip club, and taking drugs in the bathroom with his friend Mark (Jamie Foreman), and buying more drugs for a cheap price. Later he finds Billy stealing these drugs, and he savagely beats him with a bite to the nose and throwing him out, forcing him to live with Janet and Kath, and Janet gives him money to score more drugs. But then Janet refuses to give him money, even to stop come downs, and he is forced to steal from Ray and Val again, but she and her mother keep him out of furious Ray's way and Billy gives repayment money. One night Ray sees Val, who by the way is pregnant, playing pool with another man in the pub while with Janet and friends, one being Scottish Angus (Jon Morrison), and he orders her home. She goes to bed and sit up drinking, but he gets her up and ragingly accuses her of having an affair, and when she constantly denies his temper goes very violent and he savagely beats her, and when he eventually stops he runs out. Next day Janet sees her shocking injuries, but Val lies that she was hit by a hit and run driver, it is only when experiencing pain and told that she has had a miscarriage in hospital that she confesses it was Ray. He and Mark go back to the house and try to pick up his little daughter Michelle (Leah Fitzgerald), but when Janet refuses he start throwing stones through the window, and then they follow Angus to the hospital, but he stops Ray from getting to Val. At his place Ray tries and fails to ring Val on the phone, pulls the cord, and getting drunk makes a mess of all the walls, and he has a personal talk with Mark about how useless a father he is. Billy meanwhile and his druggie friend Danny (Steve Sweeney) are being chased by a man with a knife and get trapped and caught by the police in a laundrette, with drugs in his anus. The final scenes see Ray finally go back to confront Val and try to win her back, but she rejects him, it is obvious they still love each other, and in the end we see all the family together again in the repaired flat, Billy in prison, and everything seemingly calm. Also starring Chrissie Cotterill as Paula. Winstone gives a shockingly brutal performance as the most often drunken and extremely violent husband, and his high amount of "C" words is extraordinary, and Burke in a non comedic role is surprisingly compelling as the wife who has to suffer through his abuse. This portrait of domestic violence and dysfunctional family matters is very realistic, many moments difficult and shocking to watch, but there are also the moments of tenderness and poignancy, it is definitely a most watchable drama. It won the BAFTAs for the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film and Best Original Screenplay for Oldman. Ray Winstone was number 32 on The 50 Greatest British Actors. Very good!

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2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

More concept than actualization

Author: Greggory from CA
24 May 1999

There is a simple, nebulous concept at the heart of "Nil by Mouth": people who consume all manner of things (drugs (incl. booze) and those around them are the primary examples) but who spout nothing but rubbish. This is done more ambitiously (if more vaguely) during the film's first half: the sound is mixed so that conversations are only semi-intelligible, punchlines to jokes are cut off. Later on, this is made more explicit -- particularly in the form of a story which literally gives us the film's title. But this concept is all there is, aside from a rather lame tie-in to this being a/the root of domestic violence. Oldman dedicates this film to his father (ironically or sardonically, I hope), and I think this explains the mish-mash: this film is a sort of catharsis, an attempt to account for his upbringing. It's not bad art, but I hope he had more success with it as therapy.

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1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Could not understand what they were saying

Author: TC-4
9 September 1999

I was looking forward to seeing this movie since the review last year by Siskel and Ebert was a big thumbs up. I also was looking for something different by Gary Oldman. However last night I tried, with my wife, as hard as we could to enjoy the movie but we just could not understand all the mumbling between the characters during the first 20 minutes so we gave up on it. This is a disappointment as I am sure that this was a good movie if only they spoke so we could understand them.

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6 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Oldman should stick to acting

Author: bobo-17 from Canada
3 November 1999

Were it not for the closed captioning, I too would have given up on this after the first 20 minutes. British slang is overflowing throughout, and even if you understand the lingo, most of the dialogue is meaningless. I don't think we needed that much dialogue to figure out what kind of people these people are - angry, desperate, and hopeless.

The camera angles are very tight. I found myself hoping for the end of this 120+ movie. You come out of most scenes thinking, "What was the point of that?". When the credits roll, you'll be asking yourself the very same question.

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6 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A distasteful tour of the depths to which people fall.

Author: Laton from North Yorkshire
25 January 1999

This film should not be classed as entertainment. This is the guise under which it is advertised. If I was a socioligist doing a study of problem families this would be the best film to introduce the type of people I would likely meet. However I am a family man and I thought I would be seeing a film which covered family life albeit with a few problems. What I saw was an extreme view of an extremely dysfunctional family. I know that there are families like this - I would be an ostrich not too - but fail to see why anyone would choose to watch a film about them. Where the film failed so grandly was in it's failure to give the audience any background which might enable us to empathise with the main characters. I found myself dismissing it all as an un-representative extreme and surely this cannot be what the writers were hoping for. No good news at all in this film. If you want to wallow in the depths as some sort of hell then do so but don't expect to be entertained.

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7 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

If you're not British, you may hate this film.

Author: Tracy from San Francisco, California
21 May 2002

As a screenwriter, you learn NEVER to use dialog as your main device to introduce your characters. Don't TELL the audience who they are... SHOW them instead. Unfortunately, Gary Oldman did not learn this lesson. The first half hour of this movie introduces his South London characters through nothing but London lingo (fast, cockney-esque, and completely unintelligible to a non-Brit). I was extraordinarily disappointed with this film. But, if you hold on long enough, the action will pick up... but you may have to rewind during the first act (with the closed caption option selected) before you can really dig your teeth into what Gary Oldman is trying to show us in his brutally honest portrayal of how miserable life can be in South London (Oldman's favorite theme, it appears). Good Luck!

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