Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. United Kingdom/France, 1997. Channel Four Films, Thin Man Films, Matrix Films, Channel 4 Television Corporation. Screenplay by Mike Leigh. Cinematography by Dick Pope. Produced by Simon Channing Williams. Music by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Tony Remy. Production Design by Eve Stewart. Film Editing by Robin Sales.
Mike Leigh scores a rare misfire with this drab story of two college friends reuniting. Katrin Cartlidge and Lynda Steadman both give self-conscious and unconvincing performances as the characters in question, Steadman arriving in London to visit Cartlidge six years after they last saw each other. Their scenes together are frequently interrupted by flashes back to their college days when they shared a grimy bedsit and were in a different headspace, Cartlidge a frenetic mass of raging insecurity (with a very aggravating accent) and Steadman timid and ashamed of her dermatitis-scarred face. One would expect that their reconnecting will lead to some kind of revelation or understanding, putting an experience of the past into context or revealing the truth of a secret long held, but their reunion is merely a series of unconvincing coincidences and very few rewards. Leigh creates a genuine sense of friendship between these two by the end, the only glimmer of quality that hearkens to the merits of his general oeuvre, but the characterizations are not very interesting and have the quality of what you see in a bad one-act play. The filmmaker’s usual process of working with his actors to create rich back stories for them seems to have resulted in a great deal of material left on the cutting room floor (the finished film runs at 83 minutes, which means it was quite the cutting room floor), while most of the scenes that remain are irritating and lack dramatic compulsion.