"Meantime" is an intimate portrait of working-class existence, capturing the malaise and social fragmentation of early 1980s Britain. At its center are two brothers, Colin and Mark, portrayed by Tim Roth and Phil Daniels respectively, who are struggling to find their place in a world that seems to have no use for them. Their lives, shaped by unemployment and a lack of direction, form the emotional core of the film.
Mike Leigh’s direction is naturalistic, adopting a "fly on the wall" approach to storytelling. His emphasis on character-driven narrative rather than plot is evident, and this works to the film's advantage. It's in the small moments—the banal conversations, the uncomfortable family dinners—that "Meantime" finds its strength. Leigh's unique method of working with actors through improvisation results in performances that feel lived-in and authentic.
Tim Roth, in one of his earliest roles, delivers a striking performance as Colin, a young man stifled by his environment and circumstances. Phil Daniels is equally compelling as his more outspoken and abrasive brother, Mark. Gary Oldman, in a supporting role as a skinhead named Coxy, is both terrifying and captivating, hinting at the stellar career that lay ahead for him.
The cinematography by Roger Pratt is appropriately bleak, mirroring the gloom that envelopes the characters and their East London surroundings. The film does not attempt to provide easy answers or resolutions; rather, it captures a specific moment in British history, reflecting the grim realities of a society in flux.
Though the film's pacing can be slow, its emotional impact is significant. "Meantime" is a stark, unforgiving look at the alienation and discontent that characterized a generation. It delves deep into the complexities of family, class, and the societal structures that can either shape or break us.
For those interested in British social-realist cinema or the early works of actors like Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, "Meantime" is a must-watch. It's a subtle, hard-hitting drama that remains as relevant today as it was at the time of its release, offering a window into the struggles and complexities of working-class life.