In a poor working class London home Penny's love for her partner, taxi-driver Phil, has run dry, but when an unexpected tragedy occurs, they and their local community are brought together, and they rediscover their love.
Set in the 1880s, the story of how, during a creative dry spell, the partnership of the legendary musical/theatrical writers Gilbert and Sullivan almost dissolves, before they turn it all around and write the Mikado.
Slice-of-life look at a sweet working-class couple in London, Shirley and Cyril, his mother, who's aging quickly and becoming forgetful, mum's ghastly upper-middle-class neighbors, and Cyril's pretentious sister and philandering husband. Shirley wants a baby, but Cyril, who reads Marx and wants the world to be perfect, is reluctant. Cyril's mum locks herself out and must ask her snooty neighbors for help. Then Cyril's sister Valerie stages a surprise party for mum's 70th birthday, a disaster from start to finish. Shirley holds things together, and she and Cyril may put aside her Dutch cap after all.Written by
The title of Mike Leigh's first film was "Bleak Moments" and he's been having them, on and off, ever since. Leigh's films are the comedic equivalent of the Theatre of Cruelty. The pain running through a Mike Leigh movie far outweighs anything 'funny'. You wonder why they are called comedies at all. And the pain is usually the pain of belonging to a family unit. In "High Hopes" the family unit is Edna Dore's almost catatonic London pensioner, her appalling daughter Valerie and her equally appalling husband Martin and her son Cyril and his partner Shirley. Dore's next-door neighbours are a couple of Sloane Rangers with a double-barreled name and if Leigh has a fault it's that he can't help lampooning Valerie and Martin and the snooty neighbours. (Valerie is a clone of the awful Beverly in "Abigail's Party"). These are cartoon characters and they don't ring true.
However Dore, who does virtually nothing, is quietly magnificent as the mother whose life has evaporated in front of her eyes and Philip Davis and Ruth Sheen are heartbreakingly real as the socialist son and the woman he loves but not enough to give her the child she craves. Indeed, Davis and Sheen give the kind of performances that seem to transcend mere 'acting' and which in a just world would be showered with prizes. (Sheen and Dore did win European Film Awards). In fact, everyone is first-rate even the caricatured neighbours and the lamentable Valerie. An uneven work, then, but when Davis and Sheen are on screen it's as good as Leigh gets.
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