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CLASSIC SLICE OF MIDDLE-CLASS BRITISH LIFE.,
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This review is from: Life Is Sweet [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Director/writer Mike Leigh's working methods are, by now, legendary. He customarily gathers his hand-chosen cast well before filming begins to flesh out characters on their own based on his outline of events and then encourages improvisation to allow the performer to inhabit the character, rather than a stock, lifeless portrayal. The actors aren't the only ones to benefit from this theatre-like approach to filmmaking; Leigh's core audiences eagerly await each entry to his already estimable canon with great anticipation. While SECRETS AND LIES is more dramatic and TOPSY TURVY more cinematic, for me LIFE IS SWEET is the most memorable of his films. Perhaps its the sweet, world-weary musical score from the wonderful Rachel Portman. Or the concentration on just a few days in the lives of a working-class British family and their small circle of friends. Not to mention the miraculous performances of Jane Horrocks as the anguished Nicola--half of a twin sister set (the sublimely droll Claire Skinner is her offset) and the triumphant, life-affirming work of Alison Steadman (Leigh's real-life spouse) as Wendy, the earth-mother with seemingly limitless patience. Since this film, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, and Stephen Rea have gone on to great successes in films like ENCHANTED APRIL, THE CRYING GAME, NAKED, SHOOTING THE PAST, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, and TOPSY-TURVY, establishing themselves as invaluable players in modern cinema, whether in lead or supporting roles.
LIFE IS SWEET may seem to not "go anywhere" in modern terms, but look closely and the delightful, profoundly moving rewards will suprise you and no doubt lead to repeated viewings, even if just to enjoy Ms Steadman's infectious laugh. A must see for fans of British comedy and drama.