All or Nothing
Yet another funny, dark and moving improv-driven kitchen sink drama from English director Mike Leigh, All or Nothing returns to Leigh's familiar milieu of lower-middle-class family life. Timothy Spall stars as the droopy, emasculated patriarch of family in shambles: he's an unambitious worker, his children are fat and antisocial, and his common-lawish wife approaches every bleak moment of her dreary life with criticism and disappointment. Although it lacks the same stunning wit that graced Leigh's similar films Life Is Sweet (1990) and High Hopes (1988), All or Nothing is careful and involving despite its tendency to wallow in gloom. While it's frustrating to watch so many characters complicitly doom themselves to unhappy lives, and the film runs a little too long without variation, Leigh's resolution is fine and the brilliant Ruth Sheen is on hand to present a refreshingly optimistic point-of-view as chirpy neighbor Maureen, who never lets her own troubles deflate her spirit. Also with Lesley Manville, Alison Garland, James Corden, Marion Bailey and Helen Coker. MGM's DVD release of All or Nothing presents a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Trailers, keep-case.