All Or Nothing (18)

Film image

The ViewBirmingham Review

StarStarNo StarNo StarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner17/10/2002

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 128 mins

Well-acted, with one or two decent moments, but there’s nothing here that both Leigh and Spall haven’t done to death elsewhere.

Mike Leigh’s last film, the excellent Gilbert & Sullivan period drama Topsy Turvy, was a welcome deviation from what we’ve come to expect from anything bearing the stamp “A Mike Leigh Film”. However, All Or Nothing is exactly what we’ve come to expect from ‘A Mike Leigh Film’ – salt-of-the-earth working class types, a lot of – possibly improvised - moaning about life, the odd one-liner and a bucket load of misery. Welcome to MikeLeighWorld.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Timothy Spall’s put-upon mini-cab driver, Phil Bassett. (The name is surely no coincidence – Spall’s demeanour resembles that of a Bassett hound throughout).

Depression, Nagging, Frustration

Phil is a bit depressed because he can’t make enough money to support his nagging, frustrated wife Penny (Lesley Manville) and his two overweight kids – lazy, workshy good-for-nothing Rory (James Corden, also known as ‘That Fat Bloke That Was In Hollyoaks’) and quiet, unassuming Rachel (Alison Garland), who has her own job in a nursing home.

Other, better subplots involve Penny’s friend and neighbour Maureen (Ruth Sheen, effortlessly stealing the film) and her daughter’s ill-advised relationship with a no-good, violent boyfriend. And that’s it, really. There’s a suspected heart attack, but even that doesn’t pan out the way you desperately want it to.

Seen It All Before

Leigh’s movies are supposedly developed through ‘extensive character-based improvisation work’ once he’s cast his actors. Just how much of this is true, it’s impossible to say, but there’s unquestionably a feeling of ‘seen it all before’ about All Or Nothing. Which is fine, obviously, if you’re hankering after Secrets & Lies 2: More Secrets, More Lies…

It’s true that Timothy Spall is brilliant at what he does. If you want someone to play a fat, not-too-bright, miserable yet good-hearted loser, Timothy is your man. This is Spall’s fourth collaboration with Mike Leigh, so Mike obviously has a particular need of Spall’s brand of loveable loser. (There’s a very good reason why Naked is Leigh’s best film).

Redemption From The Lesser Roles

In the end, it’s the supporting characters that redeem All Or Nothing, particularly Ruth Sheen, who gets all the best lines and really ought to get better roles after this. Of all the characters, she’s definitely the most likeable, even if you do find yourself wondering where her chin has got to.

In fact, the story of Sheen’s daughter and the local nutter who’s obsessed with her, and the story of Rachel’s odd relationship with co-worker Sam Jones are infinitely more compelling than the Phil / Penny / Rory storyline, and yet they’re either inexplicably dropped or just left partially resolved.

In short, if you’re a fan of Mike Leigh’s films, then you’ll probably enjoy All Or Nothing, though, after the success of Topsy Turvy it’s a shame he didn’t attempt to confound audience expectations in a similar way. And, if you’re new to Mike Leigh, then this is as good a place as any to start, but be prepared to feel every minute of that 128 minute running time…

Film Trailer

All Or Nothing (18)
Be the first to review All Or Nothing...
image
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

image
02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

image
03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

image
04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

image
05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 19/11/2017 08:34

Latest Film Reviews

Film Blog

Urban Pundit

Keep up to date with everything in film and cinema at Urban Pundit, the exciting new blog.

Film of the Week

The Conjuring (15)

Hugely enjoyable, genuinely scary horror flick that provides a welcome throwback to classic 1970s chillers, thanks to impeccable production design, a superb script, powerfully atmospheric direction, intense set-pieces and terrific performances.

Latest Close Up

Noah Baumbach Interview

The Frances Ha director discusses co-writing the script with Greta Gerwig, shooting against the backdrop of New York and the real lives of the city’s people, Greta Gerwig’s performance, the music in the film and the picture's visual style.