Mike Leigh’s movie “High Hopes” (starring Phil Davis, Ruth Sheen, Edna Doré) is a lost gem. I discovered it the old fashioned way, typing “Mike Leigh movies” into Youtube’s search engine. I was unfamiliar with the movie and was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a nice visit with family you didn’t know you had. (A dysfunctional family to be sure, but no more or less than anybody’s).
The movie concerns a young couple (Cyril is a motorcycle courier and Shirley is an arborist for the city) and his family which includes an utterly unhinged social climbing sister, her morally bankrupt husband and their senile mother. In a supporting role are the mother’s posh neighbors who very reluctantly and hilariously interact with the family when mom locks herself out of her townhouse.
Sound like fun? Actually it really is, for the simple fact that the couple are so very well meaning, particularly Shirley, who is the moral compass in the movie. She is outwardly unremarkable but inwardly extraordinary! She knows who she is, who they are, what they stand for and what they stand against. And they obviously love each other.
All she wants is to have a baby. All he wants is some sort of higher purpose (he’s a lapsed Communist). They disagree on what the future may hold: he can’t see bringing a child into it, she can’t see a future without a child in it. They like their weed, their music, their swampy apartment (with a collection of cactus named: Thatcher, Bollock, Dick, Turd, Brains, Willie and Nob), their rooftop garden, their motorcycle and most importantly, each other. Pretty simple really.
Thanks to Shirley’s determination to do what’s right and despite other people’s selfish actions and the general clutter and scrapping necessary to live in London, they keep their wits and their ethics intact. By the end of the movie you well believe that they are going to work things out their way. Everyone else in the movie is adrift but they are moored by their love of one another and their basic decency and compassion for others. That’s what I like about the movie “High Hopes.”
(You may recognize some of the actors who are staples of British television and movies but none have reached Hollywood fame proportions). – written by jbm 2/18/2017
Scene from movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HKdpPLXZuI
See my write up on Mike Leigh here: https://walkcheerfullyblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/vii-directors-i-like
This movie is currently available on filmstruck: https://www.filmstruck.com
Thatcher, Shirley and Cyril