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Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, The Squid and the Whale tells the touching story of two young boys dealing with their parents' divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
Penny's love for her partner, taxi-driver Phil, has run dry. He is a gentle, philosophical guy, and she works on the checkout at a supermarket. Their daughter Rachel cleans in a home for elderly people, and their son Rory is unemployed and aggressive. The joy has gone out of Phil's and Penny's life, but when an unexpected tragedy occurs, they are brought together to rediscover their love. All or Nothing is set on a London working-class housing estate over a long weekend, and also tells the stories of a range of Phil and Penny's neighbors, some of whom become involved in the family's lives, and all of whom experience an emotional journey. Written by
I'm a huge fan of Mike Leigh and his latest does not disappoint. It is a typically well-acted working-class human drama. It has all of the elements you would expect from his films: the preoccupation with the effect of socio-economic conditions on the mental health & family/romantic relationships of working-class people, the theatrical exaggeration of certain characteristics almost to the point of making the protagonists into caricatures and of course the perfectly judged score which hits just the right note in setting the mood of the piece.
The film centres around the family unit of cab driver Phil (the always excellent Timothy Spall), his wife (Lesley Manville) who makes up for his deficiencies in providing for his family by working in a mundane supermarket job and their 2 overweight children marooned in an insular existence with little chance of escape. The main focus is on their relationships, inabilities to communicate and articulate, and their individual outlooks. All or Nothing is extremely successful at conveying all of these aspects.
Of course Leigh being Leigh also extends his portrayal to take in other dysfunctional characters living in the same demoralising high-rise housing flats. These include alcoholics, abusive partners in relationships and a young woman who uses her sexuality as a tool to escape the grim reality of her environment/ family situation.
His bleakest since Naked but perhaps better realised and more coherent. There are (thankfully!) some moments of hope and optimism which are characteristic ingredients of his films but the abiding impression is one of hopelessness in the face of grinding poverty and ruined lives. A brave piece of work and an absolute must-see.
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