Perhaps the most successful demonstration of Leigh’s extensive exploratory writing style, Naked is easily the masterpiece of the Mancunian’s canon. Leigh’s confidence in Thewlis, instilled by their earlier collaboration in Life is Sweet, was not misplaced. He delivers a performance that even now, sixteen years on, is a career highlight. The fact that Johnny was devised entirely (like all of Leigh’s characters) through improvisation is both astonishing and a little disturbing.
While Thewlis is superb, his excellence is certainly not alone. The late Katrin Cartlidge is fantastic as the searchingly self destructive Sophie and Claire Skinner gives a short but memorable performance as the wonderfully neurotic Sandra. It’s easy to be drawn in by the depth of character in Leigh’s work and forget how good his eye is but Naked does boast some of his most striking camerawork – most notably the iconic final steadicam shot that follows Thewlis down Shacklewell Lane. It’s a one of the most important British films of the 90s, as fresh and biting a diatribe on life in the UK as it was on its release – Naked is Leigh at his very best.