Unemployed Johnny (David Thewlis) has to flee Manchester and heads to London where he calls at the home of his ex-girlfriend Louise (Lesley Sharp).
After he is admitted by Louise’s flatmate Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge), the full extent of Johnny’s bitterness, conflict and disaffection with the world begins to show itself through acerbic wit and sexual violence.
When his ex-girlfriend returns, it’s clear that the two have a lot of resentment towards each other and that Louise is irritated by his presence.
Eventually, Johnny sets off on a strange nomadic evening through London, unloading his theories onto anyone who will listen and making a mess of his life and everyone he encounters.
We see him grasping for retribution instead of understanding, and devoid of empathy.
Mike Leigh prowls new working-class territory – a million miles away from the sly humour of Abigail’s Party (1977) – for this grim tale about a Mancunian misfit in London, lashing out unmercifully at everyone he meets.
David Thewlis, in an award-winning portrayal, is outstanding as a deeply nasty 1990s version of Alfie (1966), and Leigh’s bravura mix of comedy, tragedy, violence and warmth marks this uncompromising exposé as British film-making at its finest.
Jeremy G Smart/Sebastian Hawk