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United Kingdom 1993
Directed by
Mike Leigh
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 soul-less drabness of Thatcher's England, 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 slacker with whom he gets along famously until Louise arrives home, and Johnny leaves after arguing with her. He then embarks on a series of mis-adventures that leave him bloody and bruised and back at Louise's house, his only refuge.

Despite some blackly comedic notes Naked is an unremittingly bleak film palpable evidence of Leigh's bitter response to Thatcher's death grip on the UK during the 1980s. Johnny is a like a wounded animal 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 except through verbal and sexual aggression. Despite his chronic harshness, Leigh manages to make Johnny a character with whom we have some sympathy although as the director also makes clear, he would self-harmingly 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 gratuitously as it comes across at times as a form of type-bashing Leigh contrasts the mixed-up, violent but intelligent and, ultimately, sensitive Johnny with the sadistic, public school boy turned City of London yuppie, Jeremy (Greg Cruttwell), who has all of Johnny’s bad traits and none of his good ones.

Relentlessly and darkly tendentious, Naked will not be to a lot of people's taste but for those who find such things appealing 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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