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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 36.36%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 4.55%

2 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Nil By Mouth
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by Filmink Magazine (owes us money)

"You may not see everything, yet you experience every painful blow"
4 stars

It's too easy to become desensitised to screen violence. So it's a rare celluloid moment that actually makes you shudder, cover your face with your hands, and leaves you gasping.

The directorial debut from Oldman (from The Fifth Element, Lost In Space) has such a scene. It's when Val (Burke) is beaten senseless by her raging alcoholic husband, Ray (Winstone from Ladybird, Ladybird) in this hyper-real slice of London working-class life. The scene is especially potent as the view to the violence is partially obscured - you might not see everything, yet you experience every painful blow.

Character-driven rather than plot-driven, Nil By Mouth centres on Val and Ray's truly scary relationship, and also the misadventures of Val's junkie brother, Billy (Creed-Miles from The Fifth Element). Looking over the dual messes is their mother Janet, played by a brilliant, gutsy Morse in, amazingly, her acting debut. Scripted by Oldman, and drawn from his own South London childhood memories, Nil By Mouth focuses on the poverty and problems that seem almost inherited. Oldman's women are tragic heroines. His men are bastards - albeit complex ones.

He's gone for the doco look, vaguely similar in style to Breaking The Waves, yet glossier - and similar in content to Mike Leigh's parables of the under-class. Somewhat claustrophobic - as are the relationships he depicts - Oldman has an artist's eye for framing and colour, cleverly making the mundane appear surreal. His script, however, needed work.

While attempting to reveal an ear for the vernacular, the swearing is over-used to the point of distraction. Instead of being realistic, in some instances it's almost a joke. Speaking of which, there's a minor character - a heavily pierced, walking tattoo - who also staggers on that fine line between gritty realism and caricature.

Nil By Mouth feels desperately over-long, and could have easily shed 20 minutes (less is more, Gary). But what keeps you there are the unforgettable women created by Burke and Morse. Burke picked up a richly-deserved Best Actress award at Cannes for this performance, and her range will be particularly appreciated if you remember her from Absolutely Fabulous, as Magda - Patsy's fast-talking, no-bullshit fashion editor.

The tradition of actors trying their hand at direction has always been a very hit (think Redford) and miss (think Costner) affair. Nil By Mouth, although flawed, shows Oldman is at least on speaking terms with Mr Redford. ---Annette Basile

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originally posted: 08/26/98 13:16:29
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User Comments

4/02/09 Dane Youssef Oldman paints one of the most honest portraits ever painted of domenstic ugliness. 5 stars
3/21/03 Jack Sommersby Unrevealing, uninsightful artsy crap. 1 stars
11/09/02 Stevo Grim, gritty and depressing as hell. But excellent. 4 stars
10/02/02 Michael O Best film about Londone I've ever seen. Dialogue perfect. Makes Nottinghill look rediculous 5 stars
1/25/00 PervertedPixie Gary Oldman's intensely honest film with stab you right through the heart. 5 stars
11/29/99 The Bomb 69 script needed some work but the acting and directing rose above it 4 stars
10/19/98 Kwyjibo Gritty, deathly, way too real. Great film. 5 stars
8/25/98 Mister Whoopee Fantasticly disturbing. 5 stars
8/15/98 {{{OZ}}} Hits you like a brick in the face 5 stars
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  06-Feb-1998 (R)
  DVD: 23-Dec-2003



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