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Life Is Sweet [Blu-ray]
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on 27 November 2017
Superb film from Mike Leigh. It captures a slice of early 1990s Britain. Thatcherism was new. Timothy Spall as hopeful entrepreneur is outstanding. Stead an as wife, mother and friend plays her role to perfection. She's an ordinary woman leading an ordinary life. Her kids are different; one a female plumber and the other a politicised bulimic. The real strength of this social slice is. The way Steadman deals with life; as mother, wife, friend and ultimately remains true to herself and her values. No great action scenes, this is driven by narrative and plot. I'd watched it a couple of times before and I enjoyed revisiting this little gem. I'll watch it again.
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on 9 January 2018
Excellent Mike Lee observational comedy drama! The characters are both ridiculously funny and nauseatingly embarrassing - Alison Steadman with her neighing laugh plays the upbeat mother trying to keep the family happy and sane - the daft, gullible dad is played to perfection by Jim Broadbent and the twin sisters, one a quiet, sensible Plumber, the other, played by Jane Horrocks, a twitchy bag of nerves going nowhere with her life, alternately scoffing Mars Bars and vomiting into carrier bags, she tries to hide her anorexia with empty political declamations and violent outbursts.

Because the film is quite old it's a joy to see the actors in their youth - Jim Broadbent with black hair and beard and the boyfriend of the anorexic twin - David Thewlis - the complete opposite to our usual perception of him as kind, caring Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter films. Timothy Spall makes an appearance as the deluded restaurant owner who forgets to print the menus or advertise his new business then goes drunkenly berserk when no one comes on the first night! A riot of laughs with undertones of sadness and an early observation of the condition of anorexia and how it affects the normality of family life.
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on 2 June 2012
Was a little apprehensive when I saw the low resolution logos and clips from other Film 4 titles preceding the main menu, but most relieved to see that this has an authentic transfer. The Blu-ray disc is single-layered with bit-rates in the mid-20's. This was a low budget production and this edition looks just as it appeared projected in cinemas. No obvious digital nose reduction nor other annoying efforts have been applied to try and "improve" the picture, which is naturally very grainy, having been shot on 16 mm. The sound is a rather feeble 2-channel Dolby Digital - but again: this is a Mike Leigh film from 1990, not something directed by David Fincher last year. The English subtitles are good. The disc is region free. This is how Fabulous Films should have done their remarkably poor edition of High Hopes. Sadly, no extras.

Edit 16 February 2013: Now Criterion are putting this out with a commentary from Mike Leigh. That one will be the edition to get.
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As you expect with a Mike Leigh film, instead of having a definite story you instead get a section of life opened up for us to view. In this case the main setting is a family home.

The film explores each of the characters, we get an idea of the way they think and it's easy to relate to them. The scope of the film is concentrated on a few lives and from their "everyday" activities Mike Leigh distils pure drama. On the whole the characters are believable, though Aubrey seems a bit of a caricature - but even then Timothy Spall gives a solid performance which convinces us that we all probably know someone like him. Spall's character is a jumpy, self-deluded guy who lacks social skills and looks like he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He provides an element of comic relief while also reminding us that that there's often a sadder side to those who seem happy with their lot.

Jim Broadbent is perfectly cast as dad Andy, the sort of guy who tinkers in his shed when he comes home from work and dreams about becoming his own boss - a dream he tries to realise when he buys a dilapidated old burger van! Underneath the more obvious aspects of family thief there's a darker series of events involving daughter Nicola. Her mother is rightfully concerned as Nicola has an eating disorder - Life Is Sweet lets us into the bedroom of Nicola and we are able to see her secret torment as she binges on a secret stash of sweets before making herself sick. Food is evidently something she considers forbidden, the full extent of which is revealed when we observe her secret sexual relationship with a lad who visits regularly.

Interestingly enough the usual stereotype of males using females for sex is reversed here and it's he who wants something more substantial, anything, even a bit of conversation. The unnamed lover is David Thewlis, he's one of my favourite actors and although he has only a minor role in the film he makes an impression - in Mike Leigh's next film he would blow away the audience with one of the best performances I've ever seen.

Life Is Sweet looks real enough to believe what's happening but it doesn't have the almost 'fly-on-the-wall' element or the caustic grittiness that you often get with a Mike Leigh film - it's fairly upbeat despite some of the more pensive moment. It's the characters who drive the film and you watch because you want to see what happens to them, especially in the case of bulimic Nicola. She seems to shun everyone but there's a great scene in the end where she opens up to her sister and it gives the film a natural end point.

In a nutshell: Life is sweet is a neat self contained package which shows us a family over the course of a week or so. Similarities between the characters on screen and those in our own families are felt as strongly as the differences. It's also a reminder that we don't always know the complete goings-on in our own homes. The film does flow through events well and comes to a conclusion, and afterwards your left thinking about what the future hold for them - will Andy ever get his battered old burger van in working order?
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on 24 February 2013
Love this film was very good movie watch this on tv very long time ago was waiting for this to come to to dvd was so glad love this film was true life you can relate to I love the t-shirt on jane hancock b to the poll tax and loved the song at the begining holiday song and love the kids at the dance class three kids just looked like my mates when they were younger I would have like to have seen moor of the children and would have liked to see the burger van up and running and it was funny with tim sporle in the red sports car but no job but then get a restrunt set up but no one comes to eat sad part he got drunk then the twins dad breaks his leg on a serving spoon in the kitchen but the date on the spoon was the year the twins was born its worth moor than 5 star rating good acting all round
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on 11 November 2014
A very unusual, often desolate film, about a pretty 'ordinary' family making their own sense of life's challenges. Jane Horrocks, utterly brilliant as always, but superb, subtle, muted perfomances from all (apart from Timothy Spall's manic character). Worth watching several times to further appreciate just how clever, gentle, sensitive and human this film is.
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on 10 June 2014
Enjoyable characters as usual with Mike Leigh, acted by some British greats. This should be on everyone's "must see" list it shows British life and characters of their time in an interesting, amusing and thoughtful manner. I loved it and think it is another great item from Mike Leigh's talented brainy
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on 31 December 2016
Have not played DVD yet but was disappointed with the case I know this a used DVD but I thought the original stickers could have been removed also it may have been my mistake but didn't realise it is wide screen
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on 24 September 2017
classic from Mike.
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on 23 May 2014
As a fan of a mike Leigh and Alison Steadman I find it difficult to be entirely objective. But Leigh's observations are acute and his techniques really work. Life MAY be sweet, but not all of the time. To say more would spoil it. Viewer, beware.
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