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LIFE IS SWEET

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...

MEANTIME

UK, 1983
Though beautifully made and acted, "Meantime" is definitely I minority-audience film. It concerns an East End family Husband, wife, two grown sons, Mark a cynic, and Colin, a bit simple-minded. The t… More »

SEACOAL

UK, 1985
Lying somewhere between the naturalism of Mike Leigh and the working class concerns of Ken Loach, Seacoal, a unique collaborative project, is an astonishing doco-drama that demolishes the lines betwe… More »

The Short and Curlies

UK, 1987
In between serving cough pastels and contraceptives at the chemist's, Joy dreams of the perfect man. Over at the hairdresser's, Betty has the same pre occupation for herself and her daughter Charlene ... More »

HIGH HOPES

UK, 1988
... ... Mike Leigh's latest film is his first made directly for cinema release in 17 years and a fitting culmination to the retrospective of his films screening through the festival. ... The most sop… More »

BLEAK MOMENTS

UK, 1971
Adapted from his 1970 stage production, Bleak Moments not only represents Mike Leigh's feature film debut but also establishes the characteristic method of mood of his output, a stylistic signature w… More »

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