Life Is Sweet (1990)
Cast: Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent, Claire Skinner, Jane Horrocks
Director: Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner)
Why it’s great: Before shooting his films, Mike Leigh spends weeks talking to his cast, and watching them improvise scenes in character. From that primordial thespian soup come his scripts, known for worn-in details and grounded drama. Life Is Sweet presents an even thinner slice of life than the rest of Leigh's work, tracking a few days in the lives of a working-class London family. The family's patriarch, Andy (Broadbent), is a caterer who gambles his family's money on a broken-down food truck; love keeps his wife, Wendy (Steadman), around, though sensibility and smarts keep her questioning everything (and saving the day); their twin 20-something daughters are diametrically opposed: mumbly Natalie (Skinner) works as a plumber and Nicola is a wailing, chocolate-addict who's too busy entertaining sex fetishes to pursue her Communist agenda. In orbit is Aubrey, (Timothy Spall), a family friend who's about to open a restaurant, despite possibly being the worst chef of all time. Leigh's tragic sitcom feels like a scrapbook, clipped, and pasted together from the smallest, most important moments in an unremarkable family's life. Its tiniest moments will knock you out.
Where to see it right now: Stream on FilmStruck (watch the trailer)