It’s not just slash and trash that keeps me interested. Most of what I watch actually falls outside of either category. I do love European film and Mike Leigh’s work is no exception. This one is a rough go for me. Johnny is a character that hits a bit too close to home at times. He’s an irascible fellow who is never at ease with anything, especially himself. He flees Manchester after a violent sexual encounter leaves him less than welcome at the house where he’s flopping and heads to an ex-girlfriends house in London in a stolen car. He plows his way through his ex’s roommate and reconciles with his ex to a degree. He becomes restless and heads into the London night casting about for anyone who will listen to the fruits of his voracious reading and contemplation. When you’re on the dole you have plenty of time to think.
He meets a Scots couple who have no appreciation for his wit or sarcasm. He meets his counterpart in Brian the security guard who guards empty space and has an appreciation for his existential locutions. The only real difference between the two being the guard claims his job provides too much security while Johnny is hopelessly adrift with none.
Johnny sums up his life’s philosophy as he rattles off “I have no future. No one has a future.” And when he’s in danger of attaining some sense of normalcy and security he rushes out of the trap into early hour of dawn casting about for his next ear willing or otherwise.
Johnny is a self destructive, curious, misogynistic, chain smoking, intellectual conspiracist with a penchant for violent sex. The character burns with an insatiable yet dark exuberance brought to life in brilliant form by David Thewlis. Mike Leigh shows a sure and deft hand as Johnny careens through the London night, frequently pausing in doorways and stairwells for brief moments of intimacy, clarity and sometimes even self realization.
The great performances, disaffected characters and the staccato pop of the machine gun dialogue make it well worth the 131 minutes. Check it out.