Film Diary: Life Is Sweet (Mike Leigh, 1991)

Sunday, 31 August 2008

The essence of Mike Leigh is simple. Take a bunch of assorted characters, all larger than life but all very believable. Throw them into a dysfunctional suburban nightmare, and just let them get on with. There’s little in the way of plot but oodles of insight into human nature, especially of the kind to be found in the neglected wastes of north London, with all its limited horizons. There’s a whole world out there, but they can’t see beyond the limits of their housing estate.

Everybody here shines. Alison Steadman as the tireless mother hen who laughs infuriatingly at her own jokes, and Jim Broadbent as her meek husband, a cook who dreams only of running a ramshackle hamburger stand. The terrible twins, Claire Skinner who crops her hair and works as a plumber and might go for a fortnight in America one day if she gets round to it, and Jane Horrocks in huge round glasses who doesn’t have a clue what she wants to be, except very, very angry. Steven Rea as a drunken wide-boy and, best of all, Timothy Spall’s gormlessly intense would-be restaurateur.

It’s all very theatrical. Stagey, I mean. It leaves you with the feeling that it ought to be played out in the round above a pub somewhere. Mike Leigh hasn’t, by 1991, quite found his cinematic feet yet, but he does a good job here. Very enjoyable. And totally bonkers.

3 Responses to “Film Diary: Life Is Sweet (Mike Leigh, 1991)”

  1. tvor Says:

    I’ve not seen this one and it sounds like one i’d really like judging from the cast

  2. Diane/tvor Says:

    So i’ve seen this now, i downloaded it after your review. Loved it! Timothy Spall was fantastic, indeed though maybe a little bit forced at times. I thought at first, the twins were played by the same person though i thought…one of them sounds a bit like Jane Horrocks but the other one doens’t look like her. Much to my surprise, two actresses and Jane Horrocks was one of them. Excellent work

  3. sirina Says:

    i really hope i get to do a play on this film at my school, i am watching it now on youtube funny enougth. seems good i was thinking the boy and girl have really SQUEAKY voices aye!

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