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
HIGH HOPES provides most strengths and few weaknesses of its superb director, Mike Leigh, with the former category including his choice of footage from a typically improvisational collection of scenes; avoidance of a formulaic scenario when comparing and contrasting three widely disparate but plot-connected couples, in a Margaret Thatcher administered England; skill in controlling mood adjustment and visual constructs that generally serve to intensify viewer response; and his canny employment of technicians to implement effective staging design. Leigh's bent toward usage of politically charged economic allusions as a referent to class structure and social change leads here to role stereotypes, indeed even caricature, during scenes wherein emphasis is upon parody, as only one of the couples, former Hippies Cyril (Philip Davis) and Shirley (Ruth Sheen), is permitted to display humanity whereas Shirley's brother Martin (Philip Jackson) and his wife Valerie (Heather Tobias), along with the gentrified Booth-Braines (David Bamber and Lesley Manville) are essentially burlesque figures. In her patented persona as an old woman lapsing into dementia, Edna Doré becomes a linchpin about whom the others revolve, with Sheen taking acting honours with her finely nuanced performance as a societal rebel beginning to crave, albeit non-bourgeois, motherhood. Cinematographer Roger Pratt, along with ever inventive Leigh, use closeups to potent effect for a film that would more nearly approach greatness if a hammy lack of restraint from some talented players, although frequently highly comic, would have received closer directoral oversight.
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