Day Thirty-One: All or Nothing (2002) (March of the Movies 2022)

Apologies for the somewhat shoddy cover photo; there does not seem to be a lot of good cover photos for All or Nothing. Additional apologies for the length of this post, as the end is in sight and I am sprinting.

Mike Leigh is a special kind of director. I’ve stated before that Denis Villeneuve is likely my favorite director currently living, but Mike Leigh makes a very strong case for being in similar company. Something about the way he constructs situations and molds characters really appeals to me. Poignantly depressing, but generally offering glimmers of hope or humanity. Also seems to get the absolute best of out his actors. It’s a character-driven paradise!

Copy-Pasted Synopsis

In a poor working class London home, Penny’s love for her partner, taxi driver Phil, has run dry. When an unexpected tragedy occurs, they and their local community are brought back together.” – IMDb

Actual Lazy Review

Many years ago, I used to follow an incredibly cynical anime reviewer named roriconfan, who also went by ThatAnimeSnob. This very detailed… analyst, took ample amounts of time to detail very specific “rulesets” on determining “good” and “bad” anime through a number of different topics. I was intrigued by the basis of his arguments, though his attitude was destined to turn off the majority.

One thing he made known is that it is the characters of a story that are most important. If the characters are not good, the chances of a “good” product or very low. Story, his runner-up, can make it tolerable, but again, the damage is substantial. Despite whatever else he’s said that would eventually lead to controversy, this is something I’m inclined to agree with.

Insert Mike Leigh films and today’s topic: All or Nothing. Stories are generally little more than following people around, allowing the situations to do the talking. Terrible situations generally permeate the screen, whether poor situations, troublesome rebellions, or apathetic societies. This film is no different, only it has a great ensemble of recognizable faces who all perform beautifully. Even James Corden! James Corden!

Banana hand man.

I understand that a lot of people may not be terribly fond of this piece. Involving a lot of conversations, slow-building tensions, and general life stuff, it’s not exhilarating entertainment the likes of, say, Indiana Jones. One needs to understand that it’s simply a caricature of reality, littered with people in realistic situations, only mildly exaggerated.

Even so, the range of emotion present is something that will always compel me to root for the characters. Some are more “lost” than others, but no one seems outright evil or malevolent—simply pitiful. One can theorize many things about motivations and behavior based solely on environments and peers. Not quite “puzzle-like”; simply labyrinthian.

I enjoyed this greatly. Fantastic performances by just about everyone, a grounded story and interesting characters, and a two-hour runtime that felt like nothing. So much occurs that feel significant that come exactly as they should. My only substantial complaint is that come characters’ resolutions/roles feel underutilized. Basically, I wanted more.

She seems happy.

Conclusion

How lovely it is to say that I saved the best for last. This ended up being my favorite film of the month, and I intend to watch it again at some point. Everything that Mike Leigh is capable of as a writer and director is on display here—it’s actually my favorite Mike Leigh film now, too. Give it a shot if anything I’ve said sounds appealing.

Final Score: 8.5/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Thank you for joining me for another rendition of The March of the Movies! I hope to see you all next year—maybe then I won’t be so lazy with review by the end of it. Have a great timezone.

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