High Hopes


1h 52m 1988
High Hopes

Brief Synopsis

A satirical look at today's London through the eyes of yuppies, anti-establishment sixties throw-backs, and the upper class bourgeoisie.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
1988
Distribution Company
NEW YORKER FILMS/NORSTAR ENTERTAINMENT/SKOURAS PICTURES, INC.
Location
London, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Synopsis

A satirical look at today's London through the eyes of yuppies, anti-establishment sixties throw-backs, and the upper class bourgeoisie.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
1988
Distribution Company
NEW YORKER FILMS/NORSTAR ENTERTAINMENT/SKOURAS PICTURES, INC.
Location
London, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Articles

High Hopes (1988)


Mike Leigh has never had the easiest time getting his movies financed but with each successive film, and the critical acclaim that followed, it became easier. The problem for his early films, like High Hopes (1988), was that Leigh didn’t have a backlog of success to draw from nor a script to show investors. The reason being that Leigh prefers to work out a scenario and then spends weeks to months working with the actors on how each scene should be done. Improvisation is encouraged and individual ideas are welcome. To an investor, that doesn’t amount to much. Hand an investor a single line that says, “a brother and sister and their two spouses deal with their lives and aspirations while dealing with their fading mother,” and investors are going to say, “Get back to me when you have a script and stars attached.” For High Hopes, that spelled doom until the British TV station Channel 4 stepped in and partially funded it. The result is one of the most moving and engaging films of the ‘80s and an early masterwork in Mike Leigh’s catalog.

High Hopes tells the story of Cyril (Philip Davis) and Shirley (Ruth Sheen), a young leftist couple living sparsely but remain hopeful despite the lack of opportunity ever knocking at their door. Cyril’s sister, Valerie (Heather Tobias), is married to Martin (Philip Jackson) and the two of them aspire to be Yuppies, a young upwardly mobile couple that can hobnob with the elite. By chance, Valerie and Cyril’s mom (Edna Doré) lives next door to just such an elite couple (Lesley Manville and David Bamber). When she locks herself out of her house, she winds up in the rich couple’s house giving Valerie a chance to snoop around and rub shoulders.

That doesn’t sound like much of a plot but the interactions that come out of it are extraordinary. Not only does Leigh and his actors know how to get to the intimate core of a scene, they somehow have the ability to mix humor and horror in equal doses. Two scenes in particular—the mother in the rich couple’s house and a later birthday party for the mother at Valerie’s house—play as alternately funny and desperately sad. The work the actors do here cannot be reduced to bland superlatives like “great” or “Oscar-worthy” because there is such a communal element to what they are doing; rather such an interaction between them feels less like individual acting and more like a single, all-encompassing performance by the group together.

That’s not to say they are not excellent performances that don’t deserve some of those bland superlatives, but the ensemble of this film creates something far greater than anything anyone does individually. Mike Leigh would go on to have greater success in the ‘90s and beyond and had an easier time getting financing for later projects. But High Hopes still stands as one of his best. A masterpiece of truth. And hope.

Director: Mike Leigh
Screenplay: Mike Leigh and cast
Producers: Simon Channing Williams, Victor Glynn
Music: Andrew Dickson
Cinematography: Roger Pratt   
Film Editing: Jon Gregory          
Production Design: Diana Charnley       
Art Direction: Andrew Rothschild          
Costume Design: Lindy Hemming          
Makeup: Morag Ross   
Cast: Philip  Davis (Cyril), Ruth Sheen (Shirley), Edna Doré (Mrs Bender), Philip Jackson (Martin), Heather Tobias (Valerie), Lesley Manville (Lætitia), David Bamber (Rupert), Jason Watkins (Wayne), Judith Scott (Suzi)

High Hopes (1988)

High Hopes (1988)

Mike Leigh has never had the easiest time getting his movies financed but with each successive film, and the critical acclaim that followed, it became easier. The problem for his early films, like High Hopes (1988), was that Leigh didn’t have a backlog of success to draw from nor a script to show investors. The reason being that Leigh prefers to work out a scenario and then spends weeks to months working with the actors on how each scene should be done. Improvisation is encouraged and individual ideas are welcome. To an investor, that doesn’t amount to much. Hand an investor a single line that says, “a brother and sister and their two spouses deal with their lives and aspirations while dealing with their fading mother,” and investors are going to say, “Get back to me when you have a script and stars attached.” For High Hopes, that spelled doom until the British TV station Channel 4 stepped in and partially funded it. The result is one of the most moving and engaging films of the ‘80s and an early masterwork in Mike Leigh’s catalog.High Hopes tells the story of Cyril (Philip Davis) and Shirley (Ruth Sheen), a young leftist couple living sparsely but remain hopeful despite the lack of opportunity ever knocking at their door. Cyril’s sister, Valerie (Heather Tobias), is married to Martin (Philip Jackson) and the two of them aspire to be Yuppies, a young upwardly mobile couple that can hobnob with the elite. By chance, Valerie and Cyril’s mom (Edna Doré) lives next door to just such an elite couple (Lesley Manville and David Bamber). When she locks herself out of her house, she winds up in the rich couple’s house giving Valerie a chance to snoop around and rub shoulders.That doesn’t sound like much of a plot but the interactions that come out of it are extraordinary. Not only does Leigh and his actors know how to get to the intimate core of a scene, they somehow have the ability to mix humor and horror in equal doses. Two scenes in particular—the mother in the rich couple’s house and a later birthday party for the mother at Valerie’s house—play as alternately funny and desperately sad. The work the actors do here cannot be reduced to bland superlatives like “great” or “Oscar-worthy” because there is such a communal element to what they are doing; rather such an interaction between them feels less like individual acting and more like a single, all-encompassing performance by the group together.That’s not to say they are not excellent performances that don’t deserve some of those bland superlatives, but the ensemble of this film creates something far greater than anything anyone does individually. Mike Leigh would go on to have greater success in the ‘90s and beyond and had an easier time getting financing for later projects. But High Hopes still stands as one of his best. A masterpiece of truth. And hope.Director: Mike LeighScreenplay: Mike Leigh and castProducers: Simon Channing Williams, Victor GlynnMusic: Andrew DicksonCinematography: Roger Pratt   Film Editing: Jon Gregory          Production Design: Diana Charnley       Art Direction: Andrew Rothschild          Costume Design: Lindy Hemming          Makeup: Morag Ross   Cast: Philip  Davis (Cyril), Ruth Sheen (Shirley), Edna Doré (Mrs Bender), Philip Jackson (Martin), Heather Tobias (Valerie), Lesley Manville (Lætitia), David Bamber (Rupert), Jason Watkins (Wayne), Judith Scott (Suzi)

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the Critics' Prize at the 1988 Venice Film Festival.

Winner of the London Evening Standard's 1988 Peter Sellers Best Comedy Award.

Winner of three 1988 Felix awards from the European Cinema Society, including best actress (Ruth Sheen), best supporting actress (Edna Dore) and best music.

Released in United States Winter February 24, 1989

Released in United States on Video February 1, 1990

Released in United States on Video December 1, 1990

Released in United States August 1988

Released in United States September 1988

Released in United States September 3, 1988

Released in United States October 8, 1988

Released in United States November 21, 1988

Released in United States March 5, 1989

Released in United States March 10, 1989

Released in United States April 21, 1989

Released in United States May 18, 1989

Released in United States July 1989

Shown at Edinburgh Festival August 1988.

Shown at New York Film Festival September 24 & 25, 1988.

Shown at Venice Film Festival September 1988.

Shown at Mill Valley Film Festival, California (Channel Four Tribute) October 8, 1988.

Shown at London Film Festival November 21, 1988.

Shown at Santa Barbara International Film Festival March 5, 1989.

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival March 10, 1989.

Shown at Houston International Film Festival April 21, 1989.

Shown at Cannes Film Festival (market) May 18, 1989.

Shown at Wellington Film Festival July 7-22, 1989.

After marking his debut with "Bleak Moments" (Great Britain/1971), Leigh took a 17-year hiatus from feature filmmaking, working almost exclusively for British television (he's also an acclaimed stage director) before receiving international attention for this, his second feature.

Began shooting January 18, 1988.

Released in United States on Video February 1, 1990

Released in United States on Video December 1, 1990

Released in United States August 1988 (Shown at Edinburgh Festival August 1988.)

Released in United States September 1988 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 24 & 25, 1988.)

Released in United States September 1988 (Shown at Venice Film Festival September 1988.)

Released in United States September 3, 1988 (Shown at Telluride Film Festival September 3, 1988.)

Released in United States October 8, 1988 (Shown at Mill Valley Film Festival, California (Channel Four Tribute) October 8, 1988.)

Released in United States November 21, 1988 (Shown at London Film Festival November 21, 1988.)

Released in United States March 5, 1989 (Shown at Santa Barbara International Film Festival March 5, 1989.)

Released in United States Winter February 24, 1989

Released in United States March 10, 1989 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival March 10, 1989.)

Released in United States April 21, 1989 (Shown at Houston International Film Festival April 21, 1989.)

Released in United States May 18, 1989 (Shown at Cannes Film Festival (market) May 18, 1989.)

Released in United States July 1989 (Shown at Wellington Film Festival July 7-22, 1989.)