All Or Nothing

All Or Nothing

DVD Rating: ***

Reviewed by: David Stanners

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of All Or Nothing

The DVD extras are limited to character interviews, scene selections and commentary from Mike Leigh, but this is more than enough. When Lesley Manville, who plays Penny, says that Mike Leigh is "good for a laugh", you'd think, maybe, she had the wrong person, judging by his life's work. However, her interview, along with Timothy Spall's and the rest of the cast, are fascinating in that they open up Mike Leigh's working window, as well as his commitment to an evolving, but thoroughly rehearsed, script and real life character sketches.

Both Timothy and Lesley emphasize the highly collaborative nature of making a Mike Leigh film. "You start with nothing, and you build your character from zero," says Spall. It seems nobody really knows what the other actors are up to and are entirely immersed in the organic process of their own character. Yet, there is a definite skeleton to follow, which cannot be deviated from. Manville says, "You can't break the rules with him, otherwise it goes pear shaped."

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The commentary from Leigh is interesting. He presents himself as the independent social observer, an invisible auteur painting a day-by-day picture of working-class urban existence. "There are huge things at stake in people's ordinary lives. Epic things just turn on a sixpence," he says.

His commentary is also often technical. He'll refer to vertical frames within horizontal frames taking place in static frames, but his ideas on the characters and their development are infinitely more intriguing. Often he'll refer to his actors in relation to previous work and how he cast them in a project with a completely undetermined shape.

The construction of scenes and the improvised look, according to Leigh, is organic and highly technical. "This is not improvised - it is very, very accurately rehearsed."

During the commentary, Leigh weaves the large ensemble cast into his overall tapestry with real conviction. Even characters with the smallest of roles have been thoroughly chewed over and are fully purpose driven. At times, the intensity of the commentary is overbearing and probably unnecessary for the general viewer, given the depth of the subject, but it does underline the sheer purpose in even the tiniest detail, right down to the use of a green Aero chocolate bar.

The quality of print is fine. Shot in dim muted colours, there is a general sense of gloom, with the occasional glimmer of hope. Naturally this is tailored by Leigh, but again in close collaboration with his technical staff, many of whom he has drawn upon for years.

The DVD is a good buy, in that it provides what any Mike Leigh fan will want - loads of insight into how, why, and what for. There are additional interviews with the producer and production designer, which is testament to the enormous effort from all concerned.

All Or Nothing was Leigh's work ethic as well as his title.

Reviewed on: 07 Oct 2003
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All Or Nothing packshot
Mike Leigh investigates the sad, heartfelt lives of high-rise South Londoners.
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Product Code: MP245D

Region: 2

Ratio: Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: Director’s commentary; Interview with cast and crew; Scene selection; Theatrical trailer.

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