Life Is Sweet (Criterion Collection)
The Criterion Collection
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This moving film from Mike Leigh (Topsy-Turvy) is an intimate, invigorating, and amusing portrait of a working-class family in a suburb just north of London—an irrepressible mum and dad (Alison Steadman and Jim Broadbent) and their night-and-day twins, a bookish good girl and a sneering layabout (Claire Skinner and Jane Horrocks). In it, Leigh and his typically brilliant cast create, with extraordinary sensitivity and craft, a vivid, lived-in story of ordinary existence, in which even modest dreams (such as the father’s desire to open a food truck) carry enormous weight. Perched on the line between humor and melancholy, LIFE IS SWEET is captivating, and it was Leigh’s first international sensation.
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Top Customer Reviews
Life is Sweet indeed, and even sweeter in North London where a working class family struggles financially, emotionally and mentally too. Despite their struggles, a strong and even more powerful sense of happiness and hope hang over this dysfunctional family.
Andy, the father, is a senior chef in a large catering facility who hates his job but never lets this hatred obstruct his newly found passion for reinvigorating a shabby fast-food van. Wendy, the mother, who is outspokenly against this newly found passion respects her husbands ambitions. Their two identical twin daughters, Nicola and Natalie are a pair to be remembered. Their personalities and attitudes are different as night and day and their interaction is especially memorable. Every family has a slightly awkward but highly lovable friend and that is Aubrey. Aubrey, whose struggles are similar and yet different at the same time plans to open a Parisian-themed restaurant in London.
Upon viewing this film, I couldn't help but to draw a strikingly similarity to an American television sitcom that I happened to love which was "Married with Children"; two poor working class families that struggle everyday but simply manage to make the best in their social unit. They accept their struggles and live to fight another day.
I feel that Mike Leigh has always one memorable and touching scene in his films. In Life is Sweet, Nicola and her mother have one of the most emotionally charged confrontations. In summary, Wendy frustratingly expresses the deep love that she and the rest of the family has for her. Nicola's alarming shield of bitterness and reclusive behavior is weakened and completely broken down. Ultimately, she becomes naked and breaks down sobbing.
Behind this scene, is the conversation between Nicola and her boyfriend who is played by the brilliant David Thewlis nonetheless. He challenges her mental intellect and makes the claim that she is simply incapable of having any sort of an adult relationship. These two scenes are so important because they lead one into the other. Nicola's boyfriend drives her alarmingly antisocial behavior into another extreme which attracts the mother's attention and inevitably brings about a confrontational argument.
Having said that, I will concede that this is not a film for everyone. Those who like mainstream Hollywood fare and consider Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock two of the greatest comic actresses of their generation probably won't like this movie. If, on the other hand, you like little independent films that are smart and different and truthful and absolutely one-of-a-kind, this may be right up your alley.
It's offbeat. Absurd. At times even a little weird. And for all of those reasons it stands out for me as one of the truest depictions of family life I've ever seen on film, because most families are offbeat, absurd and at times even a little weird.
The writing is superb -- you won't find many films with a finer ear for dialogue -- and the acting, in particular by Jane Horrocks, Alison Steadman and a very young David Thewlis, is mesmerizing.
This film began my infatuation with the films of Mike Leigh, which continued a couple years later with the amazing NAKED, followed by SECRETS AND LIES, CAREER GIRLS, TOPSY TURVY, ALL OR NOTHING, VERA DRAKE, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY and most recently, ANOTHER YEAR.
This is a film I've always come back to at least once a year, and each time I've been blown away by how wonderful it is -- but until April 2011, it was not available on DVD, except in Region 2 (Europe). And so for years I had to content myself with watching it on VHS! On a cathode-ray-tube television set! As soon as the Region 1 version became available on Amazon, I snatched it up immediately. I wish the transfer had been a bit better, although there's something about the roughness of the print that actually makes a film like this better.
I've probably talked it up too much. It's never good to go into any film with too high expectations. At the end of the day, it's a little, low-budget independent film, but one that's full of some very big gifts for the discerning moviegoer. I recommend you buy the DVD and judge for yourself.
There's not a sane bugger in whole bunch as the story unfolds and subtlely draws you in before you realize you are hooked. Kooky runs abundant as potty mouth and epervessant co-exist in the same family when the thread of love undefined sews a sweater of laughter and uncanny into a much misaligned family very comfortable in their own insults to, from, and aimed dead center toward each other with repetition (including all their close cohorts as friends).
This corny and awesome film will eat it's way into your heart and subconscious. Witness Jim Broarbent, Allison Steadman (whose laughter tinklesover the top of entiire show) Anne Horrocks, Timothy Spalls, Claire Skinner, Stephen Rea, and David Thewlis in one of the most off beat comedies let loose on a public awaiting and unexpecting, this love letter of crooked but sincere hearts all sung to a beautiful musical score by Rachel Portman. I cannot stop watching this and my rapture with becomes more fetching with each viewing. Unlike a lot of family comedy films from this era, this one strikes home with an arrow hitting dead center time and again. Mike Leigh as director hits his first international grand slam.