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
Social satire that is not always comfortable viewing
The life and times of an extended family in 1980's London.
Director Mike Leigh is probably the closest the UK has to Woody Allen: and like Allen his films go from absolute classics to barely watchable. Here he is about as good as he ever will be - indeed there are scenes from this movie that are, in there own way, as profound and original as anything that has been put down on film.
Who else would let the camera linger on the face of an old woman just at the point of losing her sanity? Or dare to present a couple going nowhere as the centrepiece of a feature film? Or even present "success stories" (a yuppie couple) as rank and selfish? Here lower-middle-and-upper crusts are clowns, it is only a matter of levels and angles.
Indeed, Leigh never gives us anything to cling to. Nor does he want to present hope that things will change for the better. Take the central couple Shirley and Cyril (Philip Davies and Ruth Sheen). Why are they living like squatters in their own tiny flat? Why can they not buy a proper bed (they sleep on the floor) or look for somewhere better - after all they both work? Apart from the question of a child (she wants - he doesn't) they both seem happy to live in squalor. In Shirley we at least have someone who cares for other people.
The old lady - through which the story is told - is on her last legs as regards living an independent life. The house she lives in has become neglected and the area she lives in no longer contain her type of people. Her neurotic daughter is so wrapped up in her own suburban life that she does seem to realise her mother is at the point of collapse. The scene where she holds a birthday party for her aged mother is agony - not for her confused mother - but for us the viewer.
Some of the performances are a little of the top (Leigh's films let actors improvise) and I could have lived without so much of the melancholy music track that rubs everything in. But this is the only film since One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest that lets humour and tragedy sit side by side without blinking.
Director Leigh gets under your skin and takes you places we haven't been on film before - but I am not sure they are places I would want to go on a regular basis. He is a one-off, but I am secretly glad about that.
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