All Or Nothing finds Leigh back on familiar territory, making drama out of the ordinary lives of contemporary working- to lower-middle class Londoners. As with his previous films, this one was developed via extensive improvisations with his cast. By now Leigh is so much in command of his filmmaking craft that he can take his time, spending the first hour establishing his largish cast of characters and the way they interrelate. Then a sudden near-tragic event causes it all to coalesce: tensions and frustrations reach the surface to destructive or healing effect. All Or Nothing is one of Leigh's bleakest films: it's a study of characters in various kinds of pain that they can't always express. The comedy in Leigh's films (which his critics can't or won't see is for the most part laughing with the characters rather than at them) is more sparingly used here. Phil, played brilliantly by Spall, goes through most of the film with the same dog-like expression on his face, with flickers of emotion showing through beneath. He goes through life impassively, accepting what it hits him with, and doesn't see what's wrong around him until it's almost too late. There isn't a false note with the rest of the cast, made up of both Leigh regulars and newcomers.
If Secrets And Lies remains Leigh's masterpiece, it's partly because it's the film where Leigh's characteristic themes and methods were stretched to their limits. After the minor-key character piece Career Girls and the Gilbert and Sullivan biopic Topsy-Turvy, All Or Nothing returns to more typical subject matter, of the darker variety explored previously in Naked, rather than the more tragicomic other films. For all this film's merits, you can't avoid a sense that Leigh is treading water.
Momentum's DVD has an anamorphic picture and a Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack. Extras: director's commentary, trailer, cast and crew interviews.