All or Nothing ★★★★½

This one hits close to home. It is easy to show people, harder to develop them, harder still to understand them. Mike Leigh seems to understand everybody. His filmography consists of characters of many different personalities and dispositions, all of them exceedingly complex. It's an extraordinary talent, and one that baffles me; someone could live a thousand lives and still not possess such a broad scope of understanding. Any one person would find something of themselves or the people they know in one of Leigh's films. they might recognise the misanthropic self-destruction of Johnny in Naked in a friend, or find the bubbly, optimistic nature of Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky evokes memories of their favourite primary school teacher. In this sense, although All or Nothing is not my favourite Mike Leigh film, it is my Mike Leigh film. There are characters in this film who are people I know and love. There are behaviours and scenes in this film that I have lived, some so unflinchingly evocative of my own experiences that I could barely watch. With All or Nothing, Mike Leigh has authentically put to screen the exact sort of people that I know and am frustrated with and insistingly baffled but love all the same in spite of it all. And yet he understands them - how else could he bring them to the screen if he didn't? - more than I ever could. I don't know how he does it.

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