Starring: Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Alison Steadman, Claire Skinner, Jane Horrocks
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Running Time: 103mins
Original Release Date: 22nd March 1991
If I said to you “British family-drama” I would hear sighs that would blow my eardrums off. However, add a lot of brilliant actors who also happen to make up half the cast of Harry Potter (Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis) and a lot of under-toned but brilliant humour, then you have yourself a British classic.
Life is Sweet follows a family consisting of lovely mother Wendy (Alison Steadman), erratic father Andy (Jim Broadbent) and rather surly twins Natalie (Claire Skinner) and Nicola (Jane Horrocks). Through the film we see the struggles the family endure as Wendy commits herself to many jobs to support the family including a clerk in a shop and an aerobics teacher at a primary school, Andy works as a cook but decides to buy a run-down burger van with the little money they have, Natalie works as a plumber and has a trip to America planned but little else, and Nicola has dropped out of all work and education as she gives into anorexia with a bulimic sub-type. However, things start to get worse so Wendy decides to help out family friend Aubrey (Timothy Spall) by waiting at his newly opened restaurant, Andy keeps drinking heavily with his friend, and Nicola constantly separates herself from the family by skipping joint meals and having secret non-emotional bed-fun with her lover (David Thewlis). It’s not until an “evil spoon” (and no, I do not care to elaborate on that) afflicts Andy that the family are finally brought together in relative peace.
Whilst Life is Sweet sounds completely serious it contains a lot of clever humour which by no means undermines the seriousness of eating disorders or the family’s situation, but rather adds an element of realism to everything. All the main actors’ performances are completely lovable (except Nicola’s sneers which make you want to strangle her with her own hair) but there is one true star of this film and that, my friends, is Timothy Spall. As family friend Aubrey he adds an element of that simpleton Britishness that we all love to see in film and which provides most of the humour.
With the most impressive array of funny and slightly irritating laughs, Life is Sweet is a completely under-rated film which perhaps not everyone can relate to, but definitely one everyone will enjoy. As it now being re-released on Blu-ray as part of Film4′s Best of British collection there is no reason anyone shouldn’t invest in this gem.