Life is Sweet was the first Leigh film I saw, about 6 years ago. I recently settled to reacquaint myself with Leigh's regular team of character actors. I've seen all his films subsequently and have a feel of his breadth of work, from tragicomedy to drama.
As such, I found the characters' mannerisms and foibles to be grating and really quite irritating, as if they'd been overacted, or misjudged. At least, at first.
Then, as with any family that open their front door to you and until you see and hear how they click and survive as a family unit, you really do wonder what you've let yourself in for.
So, having 'moved in', within 15 minutes I was warming to them. Ten more and I felt I knew them and was totally immersed in their humour and lives. I'm still surprised as to how political and social statements from the late '80's (as well as a trip down memory lane; rusty Ford Escorts and shell suits) manifest themselves through the cast. Bit like the kitchen sink dramas of the '60's but without the grainy black & white, the grime and grouchy men hitting womenfolk. Leigh's canvas is much wider and behind everyday doors in everyday streets lie the often dismissed emotional and confused pains of modern life. Ordinary people whose problems seem to be teetering on the edge and to them, unique.
The acting in those more poignant scenes is, as I sometimes describe, natural, as is. As you'd expect a real person to do.
With some broad humour, wit and a brisk pace this is still a sparkling snapshot of British semi-suburbia twenty years ago. Nothing too shocking or gratuitous. Not the red-hot, pure grit of hard unemployment of Shane Meadows but the sort of folk we know about, or of, who work alongside us, holding the country together. Somehow.