Director Mike Leigh is renowned for his bittersweet films; some of which include large–scale productions such as Topsy Turvy, the adorable Happy–Go–Lucky, and the recently released Another Year. His strongest film though, in my view, is High Hopes. I‘d rented out the DVD, thinking naively that it was a fairly recent release (say, from the last decade). So whilst enjoying the film I was warily critical of the retro set design, streetscapes and historical relativity. My critical perspective reached a climax when the Lloyd‘s Building appeared in frame; as I‘d thought the building was a recent construction. It was only at the conclusion of the film, though, that I realised it was actually made in 1988. I felt ashamed of myself and overly critical of what was an excellent film in earnest.
High Hopes follows a couple (Cyril & Shirley) living in London‘s Kings Cross. We watch fondly as they grapple with societal changes and the gentrification of London‘s inner and traditionally working–class neighbourhoods. Cyril is something of a jaded, conjectural Socialist while his mellow partner Shirley is fielding maternal impulses. Amidst the relaxed turmoil of Thatcherite UK, these characters prove endearing and ultimately hilarious when we follow them through circumstances surrounding Cyril‘s manic family. A lovely, heart–felt drama that also explores the predicament of Socialism in contemporary Capitalist society.