Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mike Leigh: Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home (1982), Mike Leigh's grim serio-comic situational "slice of life,"  follows the sporadic antics of three postal workers (Stan, Gordon and Harold), two postal workers' wives (Hazel and June), Stan's daughter Tina (who is living under the auspices of social services, as "Mum" took off eight years before the story begins), and two social workers.

Leigh's often intense, offbeat films stick to memory because they deal with things that most "big" films do not. Home Sweet Home is immersed in daily details and habits of the English working class, and social relationships -- including marriage.  Paul Schrader's Blue Collar (1978), set in Detroit, does this, too, for the American working class, but adds crime and intrigue -- as does Schrader's excellent film Affliction (1997), which however adds alcoholism and crime. 

The chracters in Home Sweet Home are neither criminals nor alcoholics though June Fish, who is having a lazy affair with Stan, is turning to an abundance of wine for comfort, and Gordon Leach, constantly berated by his semi-dieting wife Hazel -- who is being wooed by Stan, one of the gloomiest, chain-smoking ladies' men imaginable -- turns to significant quantities of beer to numb his existence. Stan's daughter, now fourteen, seems even gloomier than her father, suggesting more of the same for the next generation. 

Set in the early 1980s, Home Sweet Home provides a portal into daily English working class life at the time that transcends the interesting but ultimately unresolved storyline. There is a lot of dipping of biscuits in tea and excruciatingly oblique chat. As for living like these characters do: don't -- the way they choose to continue on is, for all of them, frustrating, alienating and not in the least self-reflective.  

Today's Rune:  Warrior.  


pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't recall this film. Have to look for it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Never knew this one existed. We don't hear a lot about films down here in our area.