Director: Mike Leigh Run Time: 107 min. Format: DCP Release Year: 1983
Starring: Alfred Molina, Gary Oldman, Marlon Bailey, Pam Ferris, Phil Daniels, Tim Roth
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A slow-burning depiction of economic degradation in Thatcher’s England, Mike Leigh’s MEANTIME is the culmination of the writer-director’s pioneering work in television. Unemployment is rampant in London’s working-class East End, where a middle-aged couple and their two sons languish in a claustrophobic public-housing flat. As the brothers (Daniels and Roth) grow increasingly disaffected, Leigh punctuates the grinding boredom of their daily existence with tense encounters, including with a priggish aunt (Bailey) who has managed to become middle-class and a blithering skinhead (a scene-stealing Gary Oldman, in his first major role). Informed by Leigh’s now trademark improvisational process and propelled by the lurching rhythms of its Beckett-like dialogue, MEANTIME is an unrelenting, often blisteringly funny look at life on the dole.
“Leigh captures the restless, maddening, emasculating, demoralizing stench of poverty and unemployment with an acuity and piquancy that’s nearly unrivaled in cinema.” – Chuck Bowen, Slant