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on 2 September 2001
Me and my best mate at school used to watch this film every lunchtime, and by 1985 we had the dialogue "auswendig". But this film is so much more than dialogue - the cast and sets are pitch perfect, so much so that you can virtually smell them. If you didn't live through Thatchers's England, well, you don't need to, for you now have "Meantime", a film as complex, funny, banal, shallow and profound as life itself. A gift from heaven compared to most films I have seen in the last few years !!
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on 25 March 2003
I can't exaggerate how good this film is. If you've ever been on the rock'n'roll this is a strong bitter taste that reminds you of (very) wasted days.
The characters are nearly all sympathetic and vaguely familiar. There is such a slight trace of caricature but the cast is the strongest for any Mike Leigh film that I can currently recall.
The writing is sharper than a knife and in no way is this a gloomy film, and a number of characters introduced for comic effect, eg the council housing officer. Cliches are nicely avoided at all stages.
Can't recommend it enough.
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on 18 November 2001
I happened upon this film by chance, and being a big Mike Leigh fan for many years (although not knowing this particular work of his) decided to give it a go and buy it. How glad I am that I did. Utter realism and a clutch of hugely talented future stars made this film such a wonderful commentary on the hopelessness for so many in Thatcher's Britain. Tim Roth steals the show as the inimitably brilliant Colin Pollock (even the name conjures up an image of backwardness) - and if you ever need proof of the raw talents of a great British actor, watch this film back-to-back with Made in Britain. Meantime deserves, even today, its own huge following.
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on 29 May 2001
One of the first English movie I saw, me being a foreigner. An accurate portrait of a family. So touching, there is solidarity behind these harsh dialogues. So funny. It might appear dull, mean, but there is a real human meaning behind it. The old brother tries to educate the younger one who is a bit of a pain one must admit. Watching that film made me feel good, it showed that through mean times there is still something good left in people, poverty creates also solidarity. Something that you don't find so easily in higher social classes. Tim Roth was excellent and he was not so hollywoodian at the time. The rest of the cast is just as good!!! I learned more watching that movie than when I was studying British civilisation at university. I highly recommand it if you need a bit of fresh air and a break from big productions with big stars!
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on 13 February 2001
Forget "Abigail's Party", "Secrets & Lies", "Nuts In May"...This is the finest work by Mike Leigh. No pretentious moralising, just excellent gritty drama. I think half of the success of this film stems from the fact that all of the characters are so recognisable, each one so well drawn and not a weak performance in the entire cast...On the contrary, every actor is superb. Who could imagine the abrasive, dowdy Mavis become Ma Larkin 10 years later? Or how about a brilliant early appearance from Tim Roth as the simple younger brother to Phil Daniels who also produces an excellent performance.We see Gary Oldman wonderfully unhinged and sadistic as the skinhead Coxy and Alfred Molina is the conservative two-timing exec husband to Marion on as Aunty Barbara. I'm sure all of us have an Aunty Barbara. "Meantime" is a rough and gritty portrait of a dysfunctional council estate family with very little hope for the future, yet the film refuses to wear down the viewer simply by being very funny. Films don't get much better than this.
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on 23 April 2010
The raw, hard-hitting Meantime (1983), exploring strong social and political issues of the day (mainly the high unemployment level), evokes the deep working-class despair of "Thatcher's Britain" in the early 1980's. Powerful and gritty in content, Meantime shrewdly captures that era in British cultural history impeccably well. Although the film has its moments of humour, Meantime is overly razor-sharp and (in my opinion) ranks as Mike Leigh's very best film ever!

This is also largely due to the impressive, stellar cast line-up, boasting the outstanding talents of the ever-dynamic Phil Daniels, Tim Roth, Gary Oldman, Pam Ferris, Marion Bailey, Alfred Molina and Jeff Robert, who all possess the skill and talent of being able to improvise their scenes, proving to be highly effective in Meantime. The cast are all utterly perfect in their naturalistic style of acting and carefully prepared, astutely observed and expertly structured characterisations.

Meantime follows the working-class Pollack family, headed by Mavis (Pam Ferris) and Frank (Jeff Robert) who seemingly have little time for their sons, the mentally-challenged Colin (Tim Roth) and ever-sarcastic Mark (Phil Daniels). The Pollack family live in a bleak, run-down council tower block on a rough estate, having to survive on unemployment benefits. All the long, frustating years of poverty and incessant struggling had virtually made the family give up on life. They have no dreams or ambitions to speak of, all content on just plodding through life in the only way they know how.

Tim Roth is totally superb as Colin. Colin hadn't had much of a chance or start in life, having had little encouragement given to him other than by his loving Aunty Barbara. Colin had been bulllied and taken the mickey out of all his life. He is not retarded, though, as Tim Roth pointed out on the interview for this special edition DVD. Rather it's a case of him being severly psychologically damaged from all the years of bullying and being ordered around by others so doesn't know how to think for himself and gradually over the years had sank deeper and deeper into himself. It must be said that the genuine humanity of the family becomes patently clear near the ending - they all love one another, just all the long ,hard years of struggling and living in the grim block of flats had obviously taken its toll, grinding all of them down.

Colin practically follows his older brother Mark (Phil Daniels) around like a loyal puppy, looking up to him and desperately wanting his friendship, love, respect and acceptance. Mark, though, sees Colin as a muppet, makes fun out of him and orders him around, belittling him at every turn yet loves and protects him at the same time. Eventually Colin befriends one of Marks mates Coxy (Gary Oldman), an even more mentally-challenged lad on the estate who is a skinhead, racist and thug.

Phil Daniels is, as always, brilliant in his role. In the first scene at Aunty Barbara's house, he appears arrogant and far from likeable . Somehow, as the film progresses, you begin to warm to the character, not least down to Phil's excellent performance. You do feel hints of Marks frustation of him being unemployed and its like there's something in him that indeed does want to better himself in some way and find a way out of the dead end lifestyle he'd been living, but sadly not really knowing quite how.

Mark has an answer for everything, sarcastic to the end, almost compulsively defying and going against anything anyone tells him, conveys a cutting sense of humour (memroable one-liners from Mark includes when Mavis shouts at him, saying "I'm eating!" to which he quickly replies "I know...I can hear you!") but is definitely much more intelligent than he apparently makes out; there's a lot more to him than meets the eye. There is a particularly amusing scene with Mark in the unemployement office as he sarcastically cuts down the officious clerk verbally. There's also a restrained air of sexual chemistry between Mark and Aunty Barbara which is hinted at when Mark, clearly, feels a bit put out when she asks Colin to do a decorating job for her (seeing it as helping Colin in her eyes) instead of him. Mark turns up at her house and talks Colin out of doing the job, purely as a matter of principal.

Pam Ferris is absolutely excellent as the hard-faced Mavis, though is almost unrecognisable - a far cry from the usual kind, friendly role's she generally plays. The years had obviously not been kind to Mavis. The only highlight of her life is going to bingo (yet she always claims she's always too busy to visit her own mother). Marion Bailey, too, is fantastic as the warm, well-meaning Aunty Barbara, though slightly patronising and condesending to her family without realising it. She tries in vain to encourage her nephew's to want more for themselves and is frustated by her sisters lack of motivation and passion for life.

Gary Oldman is also superb as the mentally-challenged and seemingly deranged skinhead Coxy, who Colin mistakenly looks up to. There's a rather off-beat scene where Coxy tales Colin along to visit his girlfriend at her flat where his behaviour becomes more unhinged than ever. There's actually very little of Alfred Molina here, who is in a less interesting role as the patronising, two-timing John. His character has little time or affection for his increasingly frustated and supressed wife Barbara.

The most touching (and my favourite) scenes are at the end of the film where Colin returns home to the flat after running out of Barbara's, wearing his parka jacket with the hood up; his parents shout at him and Mavis goes to clout him round the ear but Mark intervenes and protects him. Then much to all of their shock, Colin, uncharacteristically, stands up for himself, shouting back at them. From that point on a mutual respect and a deeper bond between Mark and Colin emerges, and they have a heart to heart while Mavis listens from outside the bedroom door and afterwards she (inadvertently) shows she does have feelings. The next morning Mark discovers Colin's skinhead (hence why he slept all night in his parka jacket with the hood up) and jokingly nicknames him Kojak - but this time, and unlike before, he's laughing with him not at him.

The special features on this DVD are endearing, featuring indepth interviews with Tim Roth, Marion Bailey and Mike Leigh.

Meantime is a true British classic and an interesting social document of its time. Utterly compelling from start to finish, not letting your attention lapse until the credits roll, this is a thoroughly absorbing, gritty drama with a top-notch, impressive cast. A pure masterpiece!

Ian Phillips
April 2010
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on 27 December 2009
I believe it was only shown twice on TV in 83/84 and not released on VHS (remember that) until an agonising 10 years later! It finally became available after tagging onto the coat-tails of Mike Leigh's universally acclaimed masterpiece "Naked". The entire cast gave performances which really were the Best of British! Gary Oldman made his film debut, Tim Roth was superb in only his second film, while Phil Daniels starred and gave his finest ever display (well.... it was at least up there with his truly great role in Quadrophenia, though very, very different)! Roth & Oldman are also totally unrecognisable from some of the Hollywood characters you've seen them play, showing the brilliant range they have. As for Pam Ferris, you will swear blind that she can't possibly be the same lady who was such ray of sunshine in 'Darling Buds'! Fans of Mike Leigh will no doubt recognise many traits of the characters from his other great work, but the timing of this film makes it so special. Thatcher had been in power for 4 years and the film captures the social climate of that period as though it were a time capsule. The film takes you through all the emotions. You'll feel extreme sympathy for the characters, you'll share their shame and you'll cringe but, without doubt, what you'll also do is CRACK-UP LAUGHING!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 September 2011
Mike Leigh's 1984 film Meantime was originally made for TV (one of the first films made for Channel 4, in fact) as Leigh was at the time unable to secure a theatrical release. Indeed, he had to wait another five years before gaining a cinema release for High Hopes (only his second big screen film) , which then thankfully set him on his now well-charted path of cinema film-making. Meantime has therefore attained something of a cult following and is probably one of Leigh's less well-known works. This is a shame as it provides one of the most outstanding, and realistic, portrayals of (London) urban life under Thatcher ever made and is, for me, right up there with Topsy Turvy, Naked, Life Is Sweet, Nuts in May and Secrets and Lies as one of Leigh's best ever works.

Principally set on a council estate in Haggerston, East London, Meantime is also notable for featuring three outstanding (and arguably, career-best) performances by three of its main protagonists - brothers Mark Pollack (Phil Daniels) and his mentally slow sibling Colin (Tim Roth, in an amazing performance), and their mate Coxy, a racist skinhead brilliantly played by Gary Oldman.

The film is a near-perfect depiction of the various social milieus predominating in modern-day Britain, both at the time the film was made (1980s) and those prevailing currently (2010s). Meantime's narrative focuses primarily on the social divisions between Mark and Colin's working class family, with their parents Mavis and Frank, brilliantly played by (the now famous) Pam Ferris and Jeff Roberts, respectively, and that of Mavis' sister Barbara (a film-stealing performance here by film debutant, and later Leigh-regular, Marion Bailey) and John (Alfred Molina). From the brilliant opening sequence where Mark and family have gone to visit Barbara and John in their middle (seeking to be upper-middle) class semi-detached in Chigwell, Essex (the residence of choice for many current day footballers), it is clear what Leigh's focus is for the film. This opening scene sets up perfectly what is to follow as Mark answers back to his 'Aunty Barbara' as she patronisingly pets Colin, with parents Mavis and Frank always on the back-foot seething with resentment at Barbara's social pretensions. The sequence where Barbara and John arrange a nest of tables in the lounge with near-military precision before serving tea is absolutely hilarious, and just one of many examples of brilliant Leigh exposition in the film.

In typical Leigh fashion, the film does not contain a single storyline as such, but instead is a sequence of set-pieces designed to illustrate the Pollack family's struggle to survive against prevailing social forces including racism, social services (typified via a superb dole office scene) and soul-destroying poverty. However, Leigh does not let the Pollacks off scot-free, as Frank and Mavis are shown to be their own worst enemies, with petty bickering and Frank habitually lazing around their council flat all day in his pyjamas and dressing gown. Leigh also includes an outstanding scene as the Pollacks are visited by Peter Wight's hippy-like council Estate Manager, who engages with Barbara (visiting her sister at the time) in a key debate around 'economics', which we discover Barbara studied at college, and which Wight disparagingly dismisses as the study of money and power (to which of course Frank, as relating to Barbara, nods knowingly). This scene can be seen as something of a precursor to Wight's magnum opus scene as the nightwatchman with David Thewlis in Naked.

Given the superficially depressing and cynical nature of Leigh's storyline and characters, he does (as is his wont), however, provide some degree of positive (albeit mixed) resolution as Barbara and John are shown to be just as fractious a couple as Mavis and Frank, and, most importantly, Mark's underlying affection for brother Colin is finally revealed more explicitly as the two share a joke at the film's conclusion.

A final word on some of the acting on display here. Marion Bailey's performance demonstrates, for me, what is so impressive about Mike Leigh's method, eliciting such a natural, but brilliant, performance exuding aloofness, confidence, tenderness, doubt and finally hysteria - and she is totally convincing in her portrayal of the 37 (going on 57)-year old Barbara. It is perhaps surprising that Bailey does not appear to have recaptured such form in later performances, albeit she was also very good in Leigh's later All Or Nothing and Vera Drake. Mention should also be made of the excellent Tilly Vosburgh as Hayley, put-upon and long-suffering friend of Mark and Coxy.

The film also features a great soundtrack written by Andrew Dickson and comprising a sparse mix of ominous, tinkling piano interspersed with tenor saxophone (one of Mike Leigh's favourites, apparently). This was Dickson's first score for Leigh, and was followed by soundtracks for many later Leigh films including Vera Drake, Secrets and Lies and Naked.

A must-see classic from a master film-maker.
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on 7 August 2007
Nothing happens in this film. Everything happens in this film. Every viewer will have their own opinion on this, but this one thinks it a largely unsung masterpiece. There is no acting on show, merely people convincingly living the life they will always lead. Nothing happens in The Royle Family either...
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on 14 February 2015
The film itself is unique observation of the time and brilliant to see Tim Roth and Gary Oldman in earliest roles, I love Mike Leigh's films. DVD was packaged very well and delivered reasonably quickly. Thanks
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