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. —IMDb
One of contemporary Britain’s most renowned directors, Mike Leigh is known for his depictions of the dramas inherent in the everyday lives of regular people. Often compared to compatriot Ken Loach for his emphasis on “slice-of-life” realism (a comparison Leigh has deemed inaccurate, as his films, unlike Loach’s, have no absolute political agenda), Leigh makes films remarkable for their level-headed, unsensational portrayals of topics that would become four-hankie “message” melodramas in the hands of most Hollywood directors.
Born February 20, 1943, in Salford, Manchester, Leigh originally wanted to go into acting. While training at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, however, he found himself drawn toward directing and writing, and he eventually transferred to the London Film School. He began his career on the stage, with two of his most important works, The Box Play and Bleak Moments, brought to life through collaborative experimentation during rehearsals. The latter play… read more
A look back at the posters for departing festival director Richard Peña’s very first NYFF.