, made in 1983, was only Mike Leigh's second film to reach the big screen, though by now he was far from a novice director. Yet 10 years after his first movie, Bleak Moments
(1971), he couldn't get funding for a single cinematic feature and was obliged to make films for television. Meantime
, first shown on Channel 4, was given a limited theatrical release, heralding his eventual return to the cinema. The title is a double-edged pun. It suggests the waiting-around no-time-in-particular that the characters inhabit, but it's also Leigh's barbed comment on the mean-spirited politics of the Thatcher era, when millions of people were tossed on the scrapheap of unemployment.
Leigh has sometimes been accused of caricaturing and being condescending to his characters, but Meantime is notable for wry compassion in its portrayal of a bunch of no-hopers stuck in their East End limbo. Not a lot happens. Mark (Phil Daniels) and his retarded brother Colin (Tim Roth) hang about the streets and pubs, banter with their skinhead mate Coxy (Gary Oldman), half-heartedly chat up local girls, bicker with their parents. Their aunt Barbara--who bettered herself and moved to the relative poshness of Chigwell--offers Colin a job helping her decorate, but he backs out of it. Nobody's going anywhere much. But the view's not totally forlorn. Leigh leaves us with a brief, unexpected moment of warmth and solidarity between the two brothers.
On the DVD: It's paltry stuff. A so-called "trailer" proves to be a plug for other DVD releases in the same series. Otherwise it's just a scene menu, and English subtitles for the hard of hearing. The early 80s TV-quality images are badly shown up by the DVD's visual acuity. --Philip Kemp
East London, the early 1980s. Frank Pollack (Jeff Robert) and his sons Mark and Colin (Phil Daniels and Tim Roth) are all unemployed. The situation seems hopeless, and things are made worse when Colin's Auntie Barbara (Marion Bailey) tries to help out by offering him some decorating work, an act which arouses Mark's jealousy and ultimately effects everyone in the family. Directed by Mike Leigh and also featuring Gary Oldman as Colin's skinhead mate Coxy.