Brilliant, problematic, and hyperbolic, Mike Leigh's postapocalyptic look at post-Thatcher England may look like allegory, but only because the picaresque story line, this time involving lone individuals rather than families, seems to sprawl more randomly than usual (which, incidentally, makes the customary clash of acting styles all the more glaring). What passes for a plot involves the restless, random movements of a working-class pontificator on the dole who's visiting his former girlfriend in London, to no clear purpose, and a number of the people he encounters, including his former girlfriend's roommate, a homeless couple, a philosophical night watchman, and a couple of women who take him in. We also periodically follow a similarly misogynistic, sadistic yuppie whose path eventually crosses the hero's; it's here that Leigh's occasional weakness for caricature seems most obvious. Though far from perfect, this 1993 film is galvanizing and disturbing, powerfully acted and teasingly unresolved. With David Thewlis, Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge, Peter Wight, and Greg Cruttwell. 131 min.

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