BFI 100Movies

BFI 100: 97 – Nil by Mouth (1997)

Here we continue, what will probably eventually become known as, the ill-fated journey of watching each of the British Film Institute’s 100 best films of the 20th Century. Starting at 100 and working my way to Orson Welles’ The Third Man at number 1. I’ll try to keep these blogs relatively spoiler free and I’ll consider them only a small record of moving through this series.

Sony Pictures Classics

I expected big things from Gary Oldman’s multiple award winning directorial debut, Nil By Mouth97 on the list – and my goodness, I wasn’t disappointed. It starts comparatively lightly with the main cast in attendance for a stand-up show at a mid-90s working men’s club. From there, the story unravels with the seemingly-affable Raymond (Ray Winstone) showing himself to be domestically, and brutally, abusive. And we find that his brother-in-law Billy is struggling with heroin addiction. The film depicts much of the South East London that Gary Oldman experienced growing up and it’s occasionally a dark, tense, hard experience with precious little humour. Normally these “gritty British dramas” have become thought off as cliched Guy Ritchie-esque affairs that bore me senseless but this is an enduring, captivating watch and the performance of Kathy Burke in particular is astonishing.

As a good Lanarkshire boy I’m pretty handy with some creative swearing but even Glasgow’s adoption of the word “fuck” as a comma and “cunt” as a term of endearment; I was taken aback by the frequency of swearing on display here. According to Wikipedia, we have 82 uses of the word cunt and the film still holds the record for the number of uses of “fuck” per minute in a dramatic film. 428 in total, apparently.

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