Watched: 3 January

Is this Mike Leigh at his very best? Life Is Sweet certainly holds its own when compared with the other films he made during the 1990s, all of which are very, very good indeed (and one of which, Naked, is arguably his masterpiece to date). There are hints of several late-80s/early-90s British sitcoms within this kitchen sink comedy-drama, which focuses on an Enfield family headed up by Jim Broadbent’s slightly lazy dad and Alison Steadman’s livewire mum, particularly when the action shifts away from their house to a terrible-looking (and surely doomed) French restaurant called ‘The Regret Rien’. Here, Timothy Spall’s appalling, hyperactive wannabe chef leers after his staff while pompously extolling the virtues of his terrible-sounding menu, which includes grim-sounding faux-French dishes such as ‘pork cyst’, ‘liver in lager’ and ‘saveloy on a bed of lychees’.

The above-mentioned trio deliver performances that are really enjoyable to watch, and the cast also includes Claire Skinner, Jane Horrocks and Stephen Rea, who contribute plenty and receive a fair amount of screen time. Leigh casts astute glances towards alcoholism and anorexia nervosa, but overall it’s a comedy and I found myself laughing along at regular intervals. (****)