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Naked
United Kingdom 1993
Directed by Mike Leigh
Running time 131 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


A mesmerising whirlwind of words and a brilliant depiction of the helplessly and hopelessly alienated individual in the drabness of post-Thatcher English society, Naked features a tour-de-force performance from David Thewlis in the lead role. Thewlis plays Johnny, an unemployed Manchunian who flees to London in a stolen car and arrives at the flat of his one-time girlfriend, Louise (Lesley Sharp). He meets Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge) a punkish dole bludger with whom he gets along famously until Louise arrives home, and Johnny leaves after arguing with her. He then embarks on a series of adventures that leave him bloody and bruised.

Leigh’s film is not a black comedy unless Louis Fedinand Céline is your idea of comedy and you push his dyspepsia a few stops further. Johnny is virtually a creature possessed, almost on the edge of breakdown, as his mind races on, furiously despairing of the apathy of everyone around him and the apparent meaninglessness of it all and unable to find any escape from his madness than through verbal and sexual aggression. Despite his chronic harshness, Leigh manages to make Johnny a character with whom we have some sympathy although as Leigh also makes clear, he is one of those people who will reject it. Why? Naked is no study in psychological realism but there there are intimations of a fractured childhood (Johnny's crack-up in the latter stage of the film is quite disturbing).

Somewhat oddly, Leigh contrasts the mixed-up, violent but intelligent and, ultimately, sensitive Johnny with the sadistic, public school yuppie, Jeremy (Greg Cruttwell) who has all of Johnny’s bad traits and none of his good ones. Why Leigh does this is not clear as it only seems to be a form of type-bashing that adds nothing to the movie except add to the sense of England still under the Tory rule that Leigh no doubt hated, as a debased society. Relentlessly and darkly anarchic, Naked will not be to a lot of people's taste but for those who find such things appeal this will rate highly.

FYI: If you like this then you probably should seek out Danny Boyle's 2001 film, Vacuuming Completely Nude In Paradise.

 

 

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