Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
France/United Kingdom, 1996. Channel Four Films, CiBy 2000, Thin Man Films. Screenplay by Mike Leigh. Cinematography by Dick Pope. Produced by Simon Channing Williams. Music by Andrew Dickson. Production Design by Alison Chitty. Costume Design by Maria Price. Film Editing by Jon Gregory.
Working from a script Mike Leigh wrote based on his performers’ improvisational work in rehearsals, actors Brenda Blethyn and Marianne Jean-Baptiste come as close to true-to-life acting as can be expected; you might sometimes feel like you’re watching a documentary. Blethyn plays Cynthia, an aging, working-class white woman who is found by Hortense (Jean-Baptiste), the black daughter she had given up for adoption at birth years before. Unlike the usual murky British kitchen-sink dramas, this one has warmth, talent and beauty to the nth degree, plus a fantastic supporting cast with stories of their own: Cynthia’s brother and sister-in-law (Timothy Spall, Phyllis Logan) can’t have children, and Cynthia’s daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook) is unhappy and resentful about everything that’s going on, especially with her birthday coming up. It all comes out in a climactic, all-stops-out, tear-inducing dinner scene in the third act. Lesley Manville is terrific as the social worker who helps Hortense find her mother.
The Criterion Collection: #1070
Academy Award Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actress (Brenda Blethyn); Best Supporting Actress (Marianne Jean-Baptiste); Best Director (Mike Leigh); Best Original Screenplay
Cannes Film Festival Awards: Palme D’Or; Best Actress (Brenda Blethyn)
Golden Globe Award: Best Actress-Drama (Brenda Blethyn)
Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Supporting Actress (Marianne Jean-Baptiste)