High Hopes

High Hopes ★★★★

The thing about viewing – and then writing about – one Mike Leigh film after another is that it's easy to make what he does start to sound the same. And while there's similarities with much of his work (take out 'Topsy-Turvy' and 'Peterloo', and you could pretty much just edit all his films together into an epic patchwork of life in the UK over the past 50 years), each film still manages to stick out on its own. In the wake of this last disastrous election, it's perfect timing to re-watch 1988's 'High Hopes', as one of its main characters is the stubbornly old-school socialist Cyril (Phil Davis), who struggles with Thatcher's cut-throat Britain. Best of all, though, is Ruth Sheen as Shirley (but really, she's always amazing, especially with Leigh), a kind-hearted Londoner who holds together a rag-tag community in and around Kings Cross including Cyril's nutbar sister and elderly, closed-off Mother. They may be lower class with grim-looking prospects, but there's a moment on a rooftop with Mum, Shirley and Cyril that's one of Leigh's best and most re-affirming. Overlooking the soot and smoke of the train tracks and interchanges below, no matter how dire things may seem this motley crew is still on "top of the world."