7.4/10
7,854
89 user 41 critic

Nil by Mouth (1997)

R | | Drama | 6 February 1998 (USA)
A rough, short-tempered patriarch of a working class family has his life and the relationships around him slowly unravel.

Director:

Gary Oldman

Writer:

Gary Oldman (screenplay)
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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 8 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ray Winstone ... Raymond
Kathy Burke ... Valerie
Charlie Creed-Miles ... Billy
Laila Morse Laila Morse ... Janet
Edna Doré Edna Doré ... Kath
Chrissie Cotterill Chrissie Cotterill ... Paula
Jon Morrison Jon Morrison ... Angus
Jamie Foreman ... Mark
Steve Sweeney ... Danny
Terry Rowley Terry Rowley ... M.C. in Club
Sam Miller Sam Miller ... Club Comic
Leah Fitzgerald Leah Fitzgerald ... Michelle
Gerry Bromfield Gerry Bromfield ... Drug Dealer
Neil Maskell ... Schmuddie
Sid Golder Sid Golder ... Old Guy in Window
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Storyline

The family of Raymond, his wife Val and her brother Billy live in working-class London district. Also in their family is Val and Billy's mother Janet and grandmother Kath. Billy is a drug addict and Raymond kicks him out of the house, making him live on his own. Raymond is generally a rough and even violent person, and that leads to problems in the life of the family. Written by Gustaf Molin <gustaf.molin@usa.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for graphic drug use, non-stop strong language, brutal domestic violence and some nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Sony Pictures Classics

Country:

UK | France

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 February 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Erään perheen elämästä See more »

Filming Locations:

England, UK See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$9,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

SE8 Group, EuropaCorp See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film is loosely based upon director Gary Oldman's own life growing up in London. See more »

Goofs

A boom mic is visible in the supermarket parking lot. See more »

Quotes

Danny: You want it? You want it with me?
See more »

Connections

Features Apocalypse Now (1979) See more »

Soundtracks

Pandora
Written by Franc Ashman, Martin Watson and Giseppe Acunzo
Performed by Franc Ashman
See more »

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User Reviews

Bleak raw movie that cuts to the bone with its sheer force
6 September 2002 | by Aidan McGuinnessSee all my reviews

This is far from an easy movie to watch and is not really a good definition of `entertainment' (although it is disturbingly compelling). It's got about as much hilarity as `Monster's Ball', `Dancer in the Dark' and `Requiem for a Dream'.

There's not really a plot here. What we're looking at is a family in council housing - a poor, distraught family, torn apart by the people. Kathy Burke is Valerie, the long suffering wife of Ray (Ray Winstone). Ray is a drunken abusive man, haunted by his demons. He fights regularly with Valerie's heroin addicted brother, who cannot escape his own life style. Over this watches Valerie's mother, Janet, in a resigned fashion, lost to any real hope of something different. We get to spend some time with these characters, seeing how their lives develop. Unlike traditional movie structures we're not really building to a giant convergence of plot lines, a climatic final scene. Real life is not like that - it's a series of events, marked by occasions. This is the view the movie takes and it works well because it makes it far more credible than a final showdown involving a gun and a murder. What's even more interesting is that while Ray is `bad' he could not be quite considered evil - there's a darkness in him that he's fighting against. There's a great scene involving a telephone which brilliantly highlights how torn apart these characters are and how nothing is ever quite as simple as you would like to believe.

The acting is astonishing. I can't praise either Burke or Winstone enough. One of the reasons this movie is so unnerving is that the characters are believable - and this is due to the actors behind them. When Winstone's face becomes animated with range it really seems like he is ferocious, full of venom. You would race across the other side of the street from him, seeing the fury inside this man. Burke herself could have just played the demure wife but she adds far more complexity. Yes she is suffering, but there's a great hint of steel beneath her - shown in the delivery of a dialog, or the turn on a face. By not distracting us with pretty faces, director Gary Oldham manages to deliver actual characters. The energy - unflinching - delivered by them makes them seem horribly like people you know can exist within miles of your home.

Oldham himself shows a good directorial view. The movie uses a lot of hand-cameras (and presumably some unusual film stock) to get a grittier realism. This is aided by some excellent cinematography - the lighting is bleak, subdued, in keeping with the movie. Even the sunshine is pale, as if there's never really any hope to be had. The sound design is crisp, and generally minimalist - instead letting the camera and acting tell the story rather than forced manipulation via a composed piece. The set design also deserves a nod - the house around which a lot of the movie resolves has a real `lived in' feel. Too often Hollywood directors décor their house in a few luxury sofas and leave it at that. Here there's a real sense of a home with condiments and grit engrained in the walls. It all adds up the power. Ultimately though it is Oldham's unflinching depiction of the events that stands in the movies favour - the camera is close, it's there, you cannot escape through some banal metaphor (which is typical of most movies).

`Nil By Mouth' is more of an `experience' movie. It's a wrenching, arresting viewing that is sometimes very difficult to watch because you know there's a horrible shade of truth to it. It's not necessarily something you'd watch repeatedly (unless you've a shade of masochism to you), but it is something that will leave a little indelible mark on you as something to muse on. Definitely worth seeing - but be prepared. 8.1/10.


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