Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 1993. Man Films, British Screen Productions, Channel Four 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 Lindy Hemming. Film Editing by Jon Gregory. Cannes Film Festival 1993. Independent Spirit Awards 1993. New York Film Critics Awards 1993.
Mike Leigh’s harshest drama is also where we first see him turn towards creating a cinematic visual landscape different than his usual, natural-looking tower-block apartments. David Thewlis is extraordinary as a bitter and verbally uncontainable drifter named Johnny who has left Manchester following an assault of a woman and come to London to seek out his old friend (Lesley Sharp). Greg Cruttwell gives a terrifying performance as an arrogant toff who drives around the city harming the women he picks up, and eventually both these men end up at Sharp’s flat with her self-destructive, unpredictable roommate (a bold performance by the late, great Katrin Cartlidge). It’s the hardest of all Leigh’s films to watch despite its attempt to lighten things up with Claire Skinner’s humorously testy character in the conclusion, but it presents such extreme characters and situations without ever tipping into the ridiculous. Somehow, despite his bad behaviour and big mouth, Thewlis manages to make something sympathetic and almost endearing out of his furious antihero.