Mike Leigh’s third pic is a highly sympathetic comedy, embroidered by a superb performance from helmer’s wife Alison Steadman.
Steadman is ideally cast as a suburban housewife and mother who sells baby clothes, supports her husband (Jim Broadbent), and attempts to look after her twin teen daughters (one a plumber, the other an anorexic rebel). She still finds time to help a friend (Timothy Spall) open a new restaurant, acting as a waitress on his disastrous opening night.
Her husband falls at work, arriving home in plaster. Her rebel daughter veers towards breakdown, and almost everything that could go wrong does. But she is a survivor, who helps others survive too.
As a precise observation of British types and a virtuoso piece of carefully observed ensemble playing, the film would be hard to beat.