"All or Nothing" may not be among the best of British director Mike Leigh's fantastic work, even the director's lesser works are still sure to be involving - this film is no different. The film's tale is remarkably depressing and sad, and yet Leigh brings us into these character's lives in a way that keeps the viewer involved in their lives and want them to seek something better. Characters in Leigh films are unlike the figures that we find in many pictures - they feel real and lived-in, mainly because they are. Leigh and his actors spend a great deal of time rehearsing and getting into character.
In the case of "All or Nothing", the characters are a small group of people living in a London housing project. We focus on Phil (Timothy Spall) and his family, which includes his overweight son, Rory (James Corden), his quiet daughter, Rachel (Alison Garland) and his wife, Penny (Lesley Manville), who works checkout at the local grocery store. Although the majority of the film focuses on this family, "All or Nothing" occasionally branches out to the other homes in the apartments, focusing on the life of another cab driver, for example.
Although a rather grim, melancholy (although, on second thought, that's an understatement) film about lonliness, Leigh's film occasionally is darkly funny. A mother demands to know where her daughter is going in one scene, to which she responds "out." Her mother responds with, "Oh, I've been there. Gets a bit packed though, doesn't it?"
Leigh's film is almost too bleak to carry the interest for the entire 128-minutes, but it's a credit to Leigh and the actors that I found myself absorbed in most of their drama. Spall and Manville are excellent and although the film contains a few too many characters and sub-plots to keep track of, most of the supporting charcters offer fine performances. I liked the way that the film presented its message of the importance of family - despite all of the fighting, these characters realize that family is all they've got. The ending, while not entirely "happy", really does a nice job of wraping up the movie and giving the hint that these characters are a little more hopeful about what tomorrow might bring.
Again, I don't consider it Leigh's best work (it's terrible that Leigh's "Secrets and Lies" is still only available in the US on DVD in a Region 0 imported edition that offers horrendous quality), but "All or Nothing" still really brought me into the heartache and loneliness of these characters in a way that only rarely started to become too overly heavy to watch.
VIDEO: MGM offers "All Or Nothing" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Aside from a few issues, this is a very nice transfer. Sharpness and detail are mighty nice, as the picture appeared crisp and well-defined throughout, with no apparent softness.
The presentation's only noticable issue was edge enhancement. While never quite terrible, some very noticable halos were present in a handful of scenes. The print used remained in superb condition, though - aside from a couple of specks and the occasional hint of grain, the movie looked clean. Compression artifacts were not seen.
The film's color palette often matched the bleak tones of the movie, but occasional warmer, brighter colors appeared. Black level appeared decent, while flesh tones looked accurate, if a bit pale.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by MGM. I was a little surprised that Leigh's dialogue-driven feature was in 5.1, but the soundtrack still remained focused on the conversations. Surround use throughout the picture is non-existent, while the fronts provide some backing some the score, which is occasionally a little melodramatic. Dialogue in this film is often mumbled or spoken at low volume, so most will likely find themselves turning up the volume.
EXTRAS: The film's trailer.
Final Thoughts: "All or Nothing" is powerful and well-acted, but a bit slow and very heavy. I'd definitely recommend it to fans of the director's work, but those unfamiliar should consider starting off with "Secrets and Lies" or "Topsy Turvy" first, before giving this one a rent.