Nil By Mouth - rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!

I suspect that this could be Gary Oldman's only film. He might be doing a Charles Laughton. Making only one film, but a masterpiece. It seems to me that he has one story to tell, and it is his story. Fiction could never be as powerful as this bleak reality.

Bleak it is, but don't be put off. This is a wonderful piece of filmmaking. Incredibly, given some of his recent choices as a movie actor, Oldman seems to have impeccable taste and timing. He judges the audience precisely, giving us just about more than we can handle, and then pulling back.

The script is as real as it could be, and the performances match it scene by scene. These are towering performances of naturalism: you are not seeing a film, you are seeing reality. A brilliantly realised reality. These are not attractive people, but they are real people and they are Gary's people. he knows them and he loves them and he shows us their strengths and weaknesses without wincing and without preaching or pushing. This film is not like any other film I've seen, so far as I can remember. It comes closest to Terence Davies, and yet I think it is better than that. Oldman sees things with a clearer eye, and is less theatrical about the way he tells the story. He is certainly worlds away from the films of Ken Loach or Mike Newell - he is far more subtle, direct and honest.

The only moralising we see is around the edges, and involves the children who are born into this scene. Oldman shows us these children, but says nothing - we must draw our own conclusions. Even when the central character (clearly based on Oldman's father) gives his own theory about why he is like he is, we get to make up our own minds.

This film is also a sociological document in its own right. We see the effect that drugs - heroin in particular - has had on the established criminal scene in the East End of London. And we see the changing role of the women in all this. But it is good to know that in a constantly changing world, the role of the cup of tea does not change in English society.

The only criticism I have is of the music. At times it is too literal for my liking. But this is a quibble. And at the end Oldman's choice, like just about everything else in this film, is perfect.