As a director, Mike Leigh always seems to bring inspired peformances from his actors. This is probably my favourite of his films. The story is simple, involving a fairly disfunctional family and their eccentric friend (a brilliant Timothy Spall). All the charcters are lovingly drawn and the film switches between humour and emotion effortlessly. Apparently the film was only partly scripted, with the actors encouraged to improvise. The stand-out scene is that between Alison Steadman and Jane Horrocks, when forced to confront her anorexia. I can't watch that without being moved. An excellent, rewarding film.