Life Is Sweet (1990)
9/10
A sublime slice of ordinary life from Mike Leigh
9 September 2003
A sublime slice of ordinary life from Mike Leigh. He takes us through 5 days in the life of a London family: Jim Broadbent, Alison Steadman and their twin daughters Claire Skinner and Jane Horrox. What follows is by turns touching, hilarious and unsettling. Leigh is often compared to Ken Loach, but Loach deals with unspeakably grim and often melodramatic scenarios. The far more impressive gift of Leigh is to make tales from the apparently unremarkable. So many touches run true here; Steadman doing a little dance to herself alone in the kitchen, Broadbent and Stephen Rea drunkenly reciting the Spurs Double side, Skinner describing an arthritic old woman met on her plumbing round. And the tragedy of the film is also unveiled naturally and feels horribly believable.

The performances are also astonishing. Broadbent and Steadman, both distinctive actors, can descend into parody but here are just hugely enjoyable. Skinner is nicely deadpan but the star is Horrox, playing a twitching wreck of a girl who mainly communicates in one word insults. Little wonder she's been given so many chances to prove her talents subsequently, just a shame she's never taken them. The only false note is Tim Spall as a manic chef. Perhaps that's because he's simply put in for comic value (he was far better in Leigh's 'Secrets and Lies'), his character given none of the depth which lights up the rest of the film.
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