Tuesday 16 January 2024

High Hopes [1988]

 The title of Leigh’s High Hopes – the third film in his so-called “Anti-Thatcher Trilogy”, which was preceded by Meantime and Four Days in July – wasn’t just ironic and sardonic, but quietly mournful too, and with a tinge of bitterness. It pointed to the vacuous, self-centred “high hopes” that the nouveau riche associates their class mobility and entitlements with. Conversely, it also underscored the despair and disenchantment that come for a progressive and conscientious person for harbouring high ideals, or “high hopes”, and the futility thereof. Made with a cheeky mix of parody, humour, pathos and anger, this seriocomic film had at its core one of the most delectably whimsical, lovable and infectious married couples in cinema – Cyril (Phil Davis), a Marxist working-class man who’s become profoundly disillusioned with Thatcher’s England and the glib upper-class around him who he observes with scorn and befuddlement, and Shirley (Ruth Sheen), an affable woman who shares her husband’s left-wing beliefs, bohemian outlook, love for the pot and disdain for the then British Prime Minister, while still retaining a streak of optimism – who live an unassuming life in their little flat in King’s Cross, North London. The philosophy with which they live their lives, unsurprisingly, is at complete odds with that of Cyril’s shallow, neurotic sister (Heather Tobias), who’s unhappily married to a wealthy, philandering clown. Meanwhile, Cyril’s taciturn widowed mother (Edna Doré), suffering from dementia, lives a distanced existence at one of the last council houses in a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood, as sharply accentuated by her smug, upper class next-door neighbour (Lesley Manville). If some of Leigh’s caricatures were broad, that’s how he probably intended, in order to demonstrate which side he’s on.

Director: Mike Leigh

Genre: Drama/Black Comedy/Social Satire/Political Satire

Language: English

Country: UK

No comments: