Color, 2002, 128 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Mike Leigh
Starring Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Alison Garland, James Corden, Sally Hawkins, Ruth Sheen, Helen Coker
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Studio Canal (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RB/R2 HD/PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
After scoring a big arthouse hit with the Oscar-nominated Topsy-Turvy in 1999, director Mike Leigh took an uncharacteristically long time to deliver his next film. Far smaller in scale and back to the bittersweet, often tough realism of his earlier films like Life Is Sweet, All or Nothing was a hit at Cannes but got a very muted reception in the U.S., where it was barely released by United Artists and never even got the dignity of a DVD release. Though Leigh scored another hit right after this with Vera Drake, All or Nothing remains an often overlooked entry in his filmography -- as well as an important one since it marked the screen debut of Sally Hawkins, who would appear in his other later films including Happy-Go-Lucky.
Daily life on a council estate is a challenge for pensive cab driver Phil (Spall) and grocery checkout worker Penny (Manville), who have been living together long enough to be considered a common law couple. Their children, Rachel (Garland) and Rory (Corden), are both overweight and unhappy, with the latter prone to talking back and getting into fights. Living nearby are Penny's friend Maureen (Sheen) and her daughter, Donna (Coker), who's just become sexually active, as well as Samantha (Hawkins), who's being pursued by an unusual admirer. All three situations overlap in different ways as they tie into a sudden medical crisis and a major moment of catharsis for Phil and Penny, who fear their love has run dry.
Obviously the chance to see this cast together is more than enough reason to check out this film, with secret weapon Sheen once again proving herself to be at the pinnacle of Leigh repertory players. Of course, Spall and Manville are the main focus here and get the biggest payoff with a lengthy climactic two-hander that just about any actor would kill for; however, everyone (even Corden, before becoming a pop culture annoyance) delivers the goods with individual moments to shine in a film that provides tons of dramatic meat as long as you don't mind the unflinchingly dark subject matter.
In 2021, All or Nothing finally got some love in North America from Severin Films as separate Blu-ray or DVD editions featuring a terrific new scan from the original negative that looks flawless from start to finish. It's a fairly dreary looking film of course by design, but this captures the intended look quite well throughout. (A nearly simultaneous Blu-ray edition also popped up in the U.K.) English options are available in DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 (with optional English subtitles), with most of the channel separation going to the spare but beautiful score by Andrew Dickson and a couple of loud dramatic moments that won't be spoiled here. In a new video interview with Leigh (27m1s), the writer-director starts with a salute to late producer Simon Channing Williams and goes into the discovery of the film's location, over which he had complete control since it was about to be torn down. Then you get an interview with cinematographer Dick Pope (17m26s), who achieved legendary status with Leigh, Manville, and Spall later on Mr. Turner, chatting about the frequent imagery of staircases, the visual inspiration he took from Night on Earth, and the considerable advantages afforded by the film set -style location. Finally in "Love Thy Neighbour" (39m51s), Marion Bailey, Corden, Manville, Daniel Mays, and Sheen share their Leigh stories about the unusual no-audition process, the expectations they have that often end up with wondering what the film will turn out like, speculation about what happens to their characters, and the surprises they ran into within the heads of their characters. (Sheen gets a particularly great bit on that last topic, explaining an unforgettable moment about an attempted phone call.) The American trailer is also included.
Reviewed on November 28, 2021.