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UK, 1990 (MIFF 1991)

Director: Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh's latest delivers all that we have come to expect from this unique filmmaker, and then some. It's at once raucously funny while often blindingly insightful, a natural development upon his last, High Hopes (MFF 89).

As usual, Mike Leigh and his cast have built a world so convincing you can almost smell the eggs frying. In her late thirties(?), Wendy is a ball of energy with a zest for life and a rosy attitude that overwhelms. By day she works in a baby clothes shop, after hours she's a wife and mother. It's clearly Wendy's lust for life that keeps the family going, energising her somewhat dreamy husband Andy, a chef with a large catering firm, and her two daughters, very different twins in their late teens.

If this is all sounding too cosy, await the arrival of the appalling Aubrey, a most unlikely proto-yuppie figure and family friend who upsets the apple cart in the fine tradition of all Leigh's films, when he embroils the family in his scheme to open a restaurant.

Leigh's films help define what we don't normally see on the screen.

Life Is Sweet has all the barbs and uncomfortable, messy moments of real life, but also tremendous warmth. Watching Alison Steadman go through her paces as Wendy, it's hard not to think of an earlier performance, as the unbearable Abigail in Leigh's Abigail's Party, 17 years ago. This Abigail has grown up, sobered by time and the responsibility of family life. The story's emotional peak, a blistering scene between mother and daughter Nicola that hushes audiences wherever it plays, caps another wonderful performance from an underused actress, (who happens to be Leigh's wife), and the most stimulating and amusing time you'll have at the movies for a long while.

We are delighted to welcome Mike Leigh back to the MFF to introduce his new film.

See also...

The Five Minute Films

Made early in Leigh's career at the BBC, but not screened until the 1982 Mike Leigh Retrospective on BBC-2, this is a series of 5 short vignettes, each five minutes in length, each designed to ... More »


The appalling Beverley (played by Alison Steadman, a Leigh regular) has arranged a small party amongst a few neighbours, which provides the perfect opportunity to display her vast array of cultural ... More »


Two couples, one Catholic, one Protestant, are near neighbours in Belfast. They have nothing in common, save the fact that both women are expecting their first babies, which will be born on the same ... More »


Leigh's best-known film in Australia is the most sophisticated of his television-films and one of the great British films of the decade. Made not for the BBC but for Central Television, the film was ... More »


This tale of young love focuses on the romantic ebb of love in the life of a rather shambling undertaker's assistant. ... More »


... ... On one of those rare occasions when the Cannes jury gets it right, the inimitable Mike Leigh garnered this year's Palme d'Or (Best Film), the International Critics Prize and the Best Actress ... More »

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