The Films of Mike Leigh is the first critical study of one of the most important and eccentric directors of British independent filmmaking. Although active since 1971, Leigh has only come to the attention of an international audience in the 1990s through films such as Secrets and Lies, and Career Girls. Like Robert Altman and John Cassevetes, Leigh works improvisationally, beginning with a small group of actors around whom he builds his films during months of private rehearsal. The script is written during this process. Ray Carney examines Leigh's working method and films in the intellectual and social contexts in which they were created. He argues that Leigh cannot be simply considered within the British realist tradition of Osborne and Loach. All of Leigh's major box office successes, including Naked, Life is Sweet and High Hopes, are analyzed, interpreted, and shown to be among the finest examples of cinema.