The World According to Mike Leigh by Michael Coveney - review by Kevin MacDonald

Kevin MacDonald

The Full Horror of Ordinary People

The World According to Mike Leigh


HarperCollins 245pp £18 order from our bookshop

Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993) is a wonderful, horrible film. It follows the adventures of Johnny, a Mancunian Raskolnikov, introduced to us in the first scene committing a vicious rape. Repellent yet fascinating, Johnny – played with almost unhinged brilliance by David Thewlis – is presented as an emblematic antihero for our times: rootless and loveless but educated, his mind spewing forth a stream of caustic wit and apocalyptic philosophy into a world in which casual brutality and sadistic sex are the norm.

Critics and audiences were divided . Many were offended by what they saw as its misanthropy and misogyny. Leigh became the target for a series of vitriolic, personalised attacks, particularly from feminist groups. Others, though, saw the film as Leigh’s cinematic coming-of-age and a visionary, if pessimistic, comment on the ‘state of the nation’.

Michael Coveney, the author of The World According to Mike Leigh, the first book-length study of the director, falls, of course, into the latter camp, but he spends what seems a disproportionate amount of time defending and explaining the film and denigrating its detractors. The reason for this is obvious

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter