Mike Leigh

The British play-writer and director of film Mike Leigh (born 1943) has done plenty of movies including short films and TV-productions. In the early movies he often portrait outlandish outsiders – examples among many others are Aubrey in Life Is Sweet and Johnny in Naked. Another strong and consisting theme has been the mundane life among the working-class people and the idea of everyday life is augmented by the choice of characters with ordinary looks.

His first movie Bleak Moments (1971) are definitely crowded with some odd people, but more than anything else this is story about the grey everyday life and a couple of lonely people striving for some colorful refresh.

Meantime (1983) is kind of typical for Mike Leigh with a long transport within the drama until it shows what really is going on under the surface of the characters. Colin is a shy person that sometimes seems retarded and living in a dysfunctional family in a British suburb that has seen better days. His kept back personality makes him unable to express himself, but that doesn’t stop Mike Leigh from having a person like this in the most important role.

The Short and Curlies (1987) is a fine short film in which Leigh again portrayals some people stuck in a trivial and ordinary life. David Thewlis are here doing one of the main parts and in Life Is sweet (1990) he would appear in a similar role. In Life Is Sweet Mike Leigh mix more characters, like the crazy Aubrey (Timothy Spall) and the bitter Nicola (Jane Horrocks), together in a wide realistic social drama. Mike Leigh may have done refinement to his story-telling in later movies, but maybe would it not again be as vital as here.

Frances Mcdormand in fargo

Mike Leigh in 2008 (photo by Stuart Crawford).

Naked (1993) differs in the way the story are focused. Once again the comedian elements are mixed with more serious parts, but this time one important theme is individuality and the main story is spotlighting a snappish young man with sharp intelligent and bookish sophistication.

In All or Nothing (2002) Mike Leigh continues to depict the dynamics in working-class families and society. Timothy Spall is once again in the cast and doing a formidable role as the father and taxi driver who wonders of his wife still loving him. Even if Spalls character is important All or Nothing is mainly a collective movie from the British director and the focus are shifting between many people in three different families in the same neighborhood.

His next movie Very Drake (2004) was an unusual straight story being Mike Leigh and it got lots of public attention. As in Topsy-Turvy (1999) the director are leaving the present and going back in time. This time to the 1950s then abortions was illegal and also dangerous. The main character Vera Drake is an old lady that performs abortion in secret, but here emphatic attitude towards young women in difficulties will bring her own problems.