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Meantime (1984)

Meantime If Mike Leigh redrew the kitchen sink drama during the 1980s, then Meantime is arguably his finest piece of work.  Based on the real life story of two unemployed brothers who entered into a suicide pact, Meantime oozes a stark reality that even in 1983, was rarely seen on film.  Funded on a shoestring by Channel Four (at that time a neophyte channel) and shot on minuscule 16m film, Meantime was never meant to be nothing more than a TV drama. Yet as the years have past, the film has built up an enormous following that has taken it out of the cult and into the realm of classic status.

The cast list is phenomenal, a veritable Who's Who of emerging British acting talent. If anyone thought that Phil Daniels' acting prowess started and ended with Quadrophenia think again. Daniels plays Mark Pollock, an instinctively intelligent young man who's blighted by the twin towers of unemployment and his crumbling environment. Tim Roth plays Colin, Daniel's' retarded brother, with a conviction that had Meantime come to the big screen would have won him a string of awards.

As if Daniels and Roth weren't enough, a young Gary Oldman is gloriously incandescent as "Coxy", a glue-fuelled skinhead bent on destruction. With a supporting cast containing the likes of Alfred Molina and Pam Ferris, the film weaves itself through the painful futility of unemployment and the idiocy of social aspirations. As was becoming something of a trademark in Leigh's work, the climax of the film offers more questions than it does answers, and yet the triumph of the human spirit wins over.

I could go on for hours (and I probably will) about this film, but for the generation that grew up through the bleak days of the 1980's, Meantime is the first and last word on what Thatcherism did to this country and the generation it sort to lay waste. It is nothing short of remarkable.

© Simon Wells 2007

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