Wondrously- a confirmation of Mike Leigh’s auteur status in 1988. High Hopes is a contemporary family drama, an authentic character study, and a political critique of Thatcher’s 1980’s
Largely plotless- everyday life and observational. Leigh is a realist and the details here feel just like the best written novels. The film revolves (as the camera rolls over to the flat next door) around three couples, a yuppie couple (Lesley Manville is one of them and her husband says “What makes this country great is a place for everyone, and everyone in his place”) couple living next door to the elderly Edna Dore character. Dore’s two children and their spouses make up the other couples.
A cactus named thatcher because it’s a “pain in the ass”, this couple- the Ruth Sheen and Phil Davis character also go to visit Karl Max grave
Grating conversations throughout, moments of comedic escape but most of them are fleeting and few and far between the drama
Strong 4 stars from Ebert—he talks about the tangible impact of Leigh’s unique style of not having a script but getting letting the actors develop the characters
Repetitive but catch harmonica score by Andrew Dickson who was a frequent collaborator of Leigh’s—worked on 1983’s Meantime, Naked, Secret & Lies
The relationships and characters are a triumph- such richness. The not having children issue grows like a tumor between the Sheen and Davis character even if it ultimately ends in a bittersweet up note
Like many of Leigh’s films—High Hopes features an almost insufferable squeaky/wailing character- here it’s Heather Tobias. It’s a tough role but it doesn’t entirely come off successfully