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Wednesday, March 02, 2005 

All Or Nothing

After a Mike Leigh film, the emotional effect of all other cinema seems somehow obscenely trivial and easy. Nothing really horrible happens in All Or Nothing, but seeing those characters ever so slowly peek a little out of their shells feels hard won. There's precious little progress, of course, but the fact that any happened at all almost beggars belief.

My childhood was not, in any way, dysfunctional. But it certainly had its share of night when it felt like maybe it was, and remembering how I felt then, I recognize the looks on the faces of the family in this film. When All Or Nothing finished, the class applauded furiously, which shocked me. It was well deserved, for both cast and crew, but I can't picture appluading Leigh's work; quietly and respectfully leaving the room as the characters slowly gather the remnants of their dignity after all we've seen seems more appropriate. No doubt due to Leigh's working method, it's harder with his films than those of others distinguishing between actor and role. I was quite able to foget Timothy Spall was in a Harry Potter movie for the duration.

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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