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Reckoning

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NIL BY MOUTH

SYNOPSIS:
In a lower income South London neighbourhood, Janet (Laila Morse) is a middle-aged single mother with many worries. Her adult daughter, Valerie (Kathy Burke), is in an abusive marriage to Raymond (Ray Winstone), a no-good, alcoholic, chauvinistic creep. He constantly abuses her, and does so in front of their young daughter. Meanwhile, Valerieís brother Billy (Charlie Creed-Miles) is a hardcore drug addict who, when not shooting up, is badgering his mom for money or stealing it from Valerie and Raymond. When Raymond nearly beats Valerie to death and causes her to miscarry, she moves in with her mother and grandmother, Kath (Edna Dore). Valerie and the others hide from Raymond who quickly begins to fall apart and become increasingly dangerous and destructive.

"Nil by Mouth is a gritty slice of life portraying one very ugly side of English working class. The language is coarse and crude, life is grey and bleak. And nothing seems to change. No-one learns from their mistakes. The characters are caught in an eternal and destructive cycle. Itís a film that is driven by mood as opposed to plot, and that mood is very bleak. Oldmanís film debut explores issues obviously close to him, and his skills in writing and direction are well displayed. All the performances are solid and affecting. The images we glimpse of the charactersí lives are so intense; aptly, much of the film is shown in close up, as if we are looking through a magnifying glass. There are some who may think that the glaring honesty of displaying every grubby little detail is great cinema. There may well be real life characters similar to those in the film, but Oldman hasnít made me really care for them. I question whether we want to spend over two hours in this claustrophobic environment. The issues of drug dependency, violence, abuse and denial are ones that have been shown many times before, and thereís nothing really new here. At the end of the film, I felt exhausted and repulsed by the lifestyle and language portrayed. I just felt bad. So you could call it a Ďfeel-badí movie. The filmís highlight for me is Eric Claptonís complex, moody soundtrack, which keeps a rhythmic calm while the angst and violence rages."
Louise Keller

"Ditto. The bleakness of the subject matter and the precision of its delivery make this not so much a drama for mass consumption as a tool of catharsis for Oldman Ė letís hope so, anyway, because if it doesnít even do that it will have been even more of a waste. The filmís ending is totally unsatisfying, for want of a better word, both emotionally and cinematically."
Andrew L. Urban

"Itís the fashion these days for successful film actors to turn to directing, some more successful than others. For his debut feature, Gary Oldman has chosen to delve deeply into the human psyche, and from his own troubled past has created this powerful, troubling drama. Nil by Mouth is a warts-and-all look at working class London and fragmenting of the modern family. Oldman pulls no punches here and grabs the audience by the throat. Of course, thatís all well and good, as long as the audience doesnít mind this confronting blend of cinema. This is no escapist fluff, no Hollywood sense of unreality, but an emotionally draining and intense work. Oldman has elicited some astonishing performances from the likes of the intricate Kathy Burke, Best Actress winner at Cannes last year, who gives a haunting performance as an abused woman trying to survive. In the thankless role of her tormentor, the tough, violent and abusive Raymond, Ray Winstone is chilling and provocative. Stunningly shot in the working class environs of London, Oldmanís fluid direction and his thoughtfully written script are a powerful combination. This is a tough film, and one not easy to digest at times, but the filmís unflinching honesty and realism are its strengths, and in some ways, its weaknesses. Yet itís a film that deserves to be seen."
Paul Fischer



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0
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See Paul Fischer's interview with
GARY OLDMAN

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NIL BY MOUTH (R) (US)

CAST: Ray Winstone, Kathy Burke, Cahrlie Creed-Miles, Laila Morse, Edna Dora, Chrissie Cotterill, Jon Morrison, Jamie Forman, Steve Sweeney

DIRECTOR: Gary Oldman

PRODUCER: Luc Besson,Douglas Urbanski, Gary Oldman

SCRIPT: Gary Oldman

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ron Fortunato

EDITOR: Brad Fuller

MUSIC: Eric Clapton

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski

RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: May 21, 1998

AWARDS: BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, Alexanda Korda Film for Outstanding British Film; Official selection 1997 Cannes Film Festival, Winner Best Actress, Kathy Burke.







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