Story: Rachel (Alison Garland) and her family live in government housing and while most of them work, it is never enough to keep pace with the demands of life, let alone get ahead. She works at a nursing home, her mother Penny (Lesley Manville) toils at a grocer’s, and her father Phil (Timothy Spall) drives a taxi, but the paychecks always seem to fall short and the financial strain never eases up. At the same housing complex is Penny’s coworker Maureen (Ruth Sheen), who not only faces similar financial woes, but has just learned her daughter is pregnant, turning up the tension in an already on edge household. As the lives of the struggling work class residents of the complex intertwine, will they find comfort in kindred spirits or will the tension only increase under the tremendous strain they all face?
Entertainment Value: All or Nothing can be a dark, even grim look at the lives of struggling people, but it is also very human and with Mike Leigh at the helm, very well crafted. I appreciated how the movie moves between characters and story threads with seamless ease, bringing together those threads and weaving them together with immense skill. This kind of ensemble cast with multiple narratives could have run off the tracks, but All or Nothing never misses a beat, written with polish and executed with pitch perfect approaches by both the cast and filmmakers. The tone is serious and as I said, dark, creating a world that feels all too real, filled with obstacles and trauma that will likely be familiar to most viewers. The realities involved are organic to the narrative and not just bleak for the sake of it, with the struggles presented in ways that make sense and I think how most of the characters handle these struggles is always presented in believable fashion. And while the atmosphere is indeed bleak, All or Nothing also knows when to inject a burst of humor and even in those moments, it feels real and organic, a testament to the rock solid script and great performances here. I think All or Nothing shines as one of the most grounded, believable dramas out there and it deserves a high recommendation.
To call this a remarkable cast would be an understatement, as this is a tremendous ensemble that is deep with rich talent and everyone is on their game here. That’s one reason the multiple story approach works so well in this case, as every thread is filled with talented performers to bring the skilled script to life. Timothy Spall is the standout and in this group, that is beyond a compliment and he earns all that praise and more. A grounded, but powerful turn that never feels artificial, a crucial element for this kind of material. Spall disappears into the role and he is able to channel the oppressive bleakness of Phil’s life, while keeping the humanity and yes, even a dash of hope alive. That is a tricky balance, as he could have come off as overly dark or a silly optimist, but between the writing and Spall’s performance, the perfect balance is attained. Lesley Manville also shines and leaves a lasting impression, while the ensemble as a whole is simply fantastic, this is a great collection of superb performances, that alone is reason enough to visit All or Nothing. The cast also includes Ruth Sheen, James Corden, Alison Garland, Marion Bailey, and Kathryn Hunter.
The Disc: Severin Films gives us a wonderful Blu-ray release of All or Nothing, including a new scan from the original negative, to make sure the film looks as good as possible. The movie has muted visuals, with colors that aren’t often vivid or bright, so don’t expect to be dazzled, but this transfer really delivers. The level of detail is excellent and the print looks super clean, so while the visuals aren’t explosive, this treatment makes sure All or Nothing looks great. The extras include a nearly half hour interview with director Mike Leigh, as well as a host of other interviews, including cinematographer Dick Pope and several members of the film’s cast. These interviews are not fluff pieces and have some real substance, so if you appreciate the movie, these are a great insight into the production.
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