'Real life' apparently, or rather the usual Leigh take on the stymied lot of the working class, permanently trapped in 1970s Marxist agitprop - regardless of time or locale - although this is admittedly less egregious than his single lens caricatures of the middle classes (re: Who's Who or High Hopes). For this outing it's the emotions of the prols' as workshop theme, typically realised as mumbling and inarticulate.
Typical Mike Leigh fare. Brilliant acting, aggressive use of music, precise mise-en-scène. The excesses are all there, but make no mistake: Leigh is not a demagogue; he never rubs the spectator's face in his own self-proclaimed compassion, like most social realist filmmakers do. The use of music, the histrionic emotions are part of a larger aesthetic articulation: the calling to question of a sense of "good taste".
For me the ratio of Spall:Manville/Hawkins/Sheen was tilted too much toward the former. Worth having a look to see Sally H ace her first role. And to note a brief scene with a far-gone taxi passenger who, flask in hand, dribbles a monologue punctuated with "You know?" The same nonsense speech (also with "you know?") is delivered to Poppy by a homeless man in HGL. Vg summary of ML's close-range humanism. You know?
Broached in LIFE IS SWEET, Leigh's mastery here of exquisitely direct-seeming recording of emotion makes him the Bergman of the working classes. How to know precisely where to position and frame the perfectly cast and directed actors in their spaces, or to calibrate the distance between the bodies/faces and the camera and its movements, for the greatest, most perfect sensitivity? It's a mystery, but Mike Leigh knows.
master piece. the whole film is thoroughly crafted in a way that each subtle sentence and movement of each characther conveys its identity's density. the main family - their many problems (and, ultimately, the whole neighbourhood's problems)- is an emotional puzzle which is solved after a catharchic last half-hour caused by a simple breach in the puzzle. very good argument supported by sublime acting