All or Nothing Review
Timothy Spall stars as a London taxi driver and armchair philosopher who lives in a housing estate with his wife, played by Lesley Manville, and his two overweight children, played by James Corden and Alison Garland. Although this family is the central focus of the film, there are also various sub-plots involving friends and work colleagues of the family members.
As is widely known, Mike Leigh creates his films in close collaboration with the actors. Although the scripts are finalised before shooting, they are derived from months of improvising and rehearsals with the cast. Because of this development process, Leigh's films rarely have a conventional narrative, but despite this still manage to explore defined themes and take the audience on a worthwhile journey.
In the case of All Or Nothing, the central theme is that of loneliness as a consequence of an unwillingness or inability to truly communicate with others. All of the relationships in the film are dysfunctional to some degree, and the varied interactions between the characters provide both pathos and humour.
The greater freedom afforded to actors as a consequence of Leigh's working methods often lead to some fine performances, and All Or Nothing is no exception, as all the cast are uniformly excellent.
For most of its runtime, the film runs on a knife-edge between tragedy and comedy. When events push matters over the edge and the characters are forced to confront their feelings and relationships with others, the raw emotion displayed is both moving and difficult to watch. Rather than the downbeat ending this implies, however, the film actually concludes with a renewed sense of hope.
The disc is dual encoded for regions 2 and 4.
The naturalistic cinematography of long-term Mike Leigh collaborator Dick Pope lends itself well to the DVD format, and the 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer reflects this. Colour levels, shadow detail and contrast are all good. The source print used was clearly in excellent condition, with only a few barely noticeable print flecks making a very occasional appearance.
Although a Dolby 5.1 surround track is supplied, this is a heavily dialogue based film and the rear speakers receive little use apart from for Andrew Dickson's delicate score. In fact the surround track is barely distinguishable from Dolby stereo. This does not prevent the soundtrack from doing its job well, and thanks to a wide dynamic range some people may find they need to turn up the volume to hear some of the quieter dialogue.
Mike Leigh contributes a feature-length commentary track, and unsurprisingly he proves to be both intelligent and articulate. In discussing his working methods, he is careful to stress that the film is a collaborative effort and makes sure to mention the other talents involved in the filmmaking process. Leigh can perhaps be forgiven for the frequent compliments to the actors given the high quality of the performances in question. Leigh's influences and the themes of the film are also discussed.
The extras also include a set of individual interviews with Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Helen Coker, James Corden, Alison Garland, Sally Hawkins, Daniel Mays, production designer Eve Stewart, producer Simon Channing-Williams and Mike Leigh himself. Most of these are around two or three minutes in length, but Mike Leigh is allowed a slightly more generous nine-and-a-half minutes. These interviews help to give further insight into the long, collaborative development process that Leigh uses. The actors discuss the elaborate back-stories that were developed for their characters, and how the development process helped them as actors.
Also included is the original theatrical trailer, which despite a short running time of less than two minutes still manages to contain some major spoilers.
All of the extras are presented in anamorphic widescreen format. Although what is supplied is of a high standard, it's a shame that Momentum did not also include a making-of documentary of some form to enable us to witness the development process taking place.
Mike Leigh is unlikely to convert anybody who disliked his previous films with All Or Nothing, but those who are appreciative of his individual style will find the film as rewarding as any of his previous work. For anybody completely new to Mike Leigh, this is as good a starting point as any, particularly as the extra material provides insight into his unconventional working methods.