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BFI 100: 95 – Life Is Sweet (1990)

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Here we further the ill-fated and resurrected 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. This week, Mike Leigh’s Life is Sweet from 1990. I’ll try to keep these short updates relatively spoiler free and consider them only a small record of moving through this series.

© Thin Man Films

Before I began this endeavour, the only two Mike Leigh projects I had watched were the phenomenal TV play Abigail’s Party, and 2008’s Happy Go Lucky – both of which I enjoyed immensely. Even though I had been told to watch the films, Secrets & Lies, Naked and, our number 95, Life is Sweet, I never took the time. This movie is a farrago of dramaa, mundanity, and hilarity. As it began, I didn’t think it was for me; Alison Steadman’s Wendy was beyond irritating with her innuendo and laugh, Jim Broadbent unbearably optimistic. It was, however, the performances of Claire Skinner and – particularly – Jane Horrocks that surely sold this story of a North London working class family. Certainly, this is a good entry point into Leigh’s work and it’s a film that will have me investigate more – and of course, I’ll watch Secrets & Lies, when I reach number 40.


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