Nil by Mouth

Watch Nil by Mouth

  • R
  • 1997
  • 2 hr 8 min
  • 7.3  (10,106)
  • 76

In 1997, writer and director Gary Oldman made his feature film debut with "Nil by Mouth," a gritty and uncompromising drama set in working-class London. The film explores the destructive cycle of addiction, violence, and poverty in a close-knit family, featuring raw and powerful performances from its all-British cast. Ray Winstone stars as Ray, a volatile and abusive husband and father who spends most of his time drinking and getting into fights. His wife Valerie (Kathy Burke) tries to keep their home together and protect their young son Billy (Charlie Creed-Miles) from his father's wrath, but she is also struggling with her own addictions and emotional scars.

The film takes place over the course of a few days, as the family is thrown into chaos by a series of events: a violent encounter with a group of thugs, a relapse into drug use, a betrayal by a friend, and a tragic loss. Oldman uses a non-linear narrative structure to delve into the characters' pasts and reveal the roots of their dysfunction, while also showing how their present circumstances are pushing them further into darkness.

One of the most striking aspects of "Nil by Mouth" is its authenticity and honesty. Oldman grew up in similar circumstances to the characters he portrays, and he brings an unflinching realism to the film that can be hard to watch at times. The dialogue is full of profanity and slang, and the violence is brutal and visceral. But beneath the surface ugliness, there are moments of tenderness and humanity that make the characters relatable and sympathetic.

Winstone, in particular, gives a powerhouse performance as Ray. He is a terrifying presence on screen, capable of explosive rage and chillingly cold detachment. But there are also glimpses of vulnerability and regret that make him more than just a one-dimensional villain. Burke, meanwhile, brings a quiet strength to Valerie, showing the toll that years of abuse and neglect have taken on her spirit. And Creed-Miles gives a nuanced portrayal of Billy as a sensitive and conflicted young man trying to find his way in a harsh and unforgiving world.

The supporting cast is also excellent, including Edna Doré as Valerie's tough-talking mother, Laila Morse as Ray's sister-in-law, and Jamie Foreman as a menacing drug dealer. Oldman's direction is assured and confident, using tight close-ups and handheld camerawork to create an immersive sense of intimacy with the characters. The film's score, by Eric Clapton, adds a haunting and melancholy tone to the proceedings.

"Nil by Mouth" is not an easy film to watch, and it may not be for everyone. Its unvarnished depiction of poverty, addiction, and violence can be overwhelming, and some viewers may find it too bleak or depressing. But for those willing to take the journey, it is a powerful and affecting film that offers a glimpse into a world that is rarely seen on screen. Oldman's uncompromising vision and the superb performances from the cast make "Nil by Mouth" a true masterpiece of British cinema.

Nil by Mouth is a 1997 drama with a runtime of 2 hours and 8 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.3 and a MetaScore of 76.

Nil by Mouth
Where to Watch Nil by Mouth
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    2 hr 8 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.3  (10,106)
  • Metascore