Nil by Mouth [1997]

Gary Oldman took a break from acting to write and direct this unflinching family drama out of the kitchen-sink British school. Oldman doesn't appear in the film, instead handing the heavy lifting to the remarkable Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast, Cold Mountain) and Kathy Burke, who won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her work. The scummy drug trade of lower-class London is Oldman's turf, but he puts special focus on the miserable cycles of violence that fuel a family's struggle within this world. The results are not always easy to watch, but they are devastating (and the final sequence is chilling). Oldman may be guilty of indulging his actors a bit, but it's forgivable, given the big, roaring performances. One advantage of watching the movie on DVD, at least for non-British audiences: the chance to check subtitles against the heavily accented dialogue. --Robert Horton

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Ray:
She took his dinner in to him once. Me mum, in the pub, and plonked it in front of him on a tray. Knife and fork, salt and pepper. He said, "What's that?" She said, "It's your dinner. I thought you might be hungry. You ain't eaten for three fucking days. You live in here, you might as well fucking eat in here." It's funny. He didn't like that, did he? Mugged him up in front of his mates. Thought more of them cunts than he did us. Lovely. Yeah. She got a clump over that. Well, she would, wouldn't she? He was always pissed in there, weren't he? You know? We go in the pub to get our living, you know? That's where we do our business. He'd be there spunking out while we're sitting at home without a dinar, you know, thank you. And he'd promise things. You know? Promise to take us places, you know? Never did. Never took us anywhere. And when he did bother to come home he'd sit in that fucking chair, doss off with his tray in his lap. And I'd just stand there looking at him. I'd look in his face, and my mother'd go upstairs, and I'd say, "Say, Mum, ain't Daddy coming to bed?" And she'd say, "No. No, he's all right, son. He'll come up when he wakes up." He's gotta wake up to go to bed! Now, I'd stand there looking at this fucking old man, you know, my dad, you know, in that chair, that horrible fucking chair with the shiny, worn-out arms. I should've burnt the fucking thing. By the end he was hemorrhaging from both ends, you know? I used to hear him in the morning hanging on to the kharzi. It was lovely. Never stopped him going to the pub, though. No, he was well enough to do that. Now, one day, right, he's staggering across the pub pissed from the night before. He's gone over, crunch, right on his mooey, like a fucking ironing board. His hooter's around here, his railings all over the fucking place. Me and me mum had to go the hospital to see him. We walked in. He's laying in bed. He's got tubes up his arms, fucking up his nose, down the back of his Gregory. He didn't look well. Fucking vodka was keeping him alive. Well, I ain't that interested, so I'm having a little mooch about, you know. I looked above his bed, and there's this sign, right, with some weird writing on it. I couldn't read too well at the time. I said to my mum, "Mum, what's that say? You know, that sign above Daddy's head." All right? She said, "Nil by mouth." "What's that, a football score?" One-nil, three-nil, two-nil, a geezer called fucking Nil. Yeah. I said, "Well, what's it mean?" She said, "It means..."

Mark:
It means nothing to eat.

Ray:
Yeah, nothing down the...

Mark:
Nothing down the... Yeah.

Ray:
Yeah, all right. I remembered that day, because I could've put that on his fucking tombstone, you know? Because I don't remember one kiss, you know, one cuddle. Nothing. I mean, plenty went down, not a lot came out, you know, nothing that was any fucking good. And I'd look at this man that I call Dad, you know? My father, I knew him as Dad. He was my fucking dad but he weren't like other kids' dads, you know? It was as if the word itself were enough, and it ain't.

Mark:
That ain't when he died though, is it?

Ray:
No. He lived another ten years, slippery old cunt. He died one afternoon in that fucking armchair. About right. I went around to see him, you know, when he was plotted up at me mother's.

Mark:
Hatcham Road?

Ray:
Yeah, Hatcham Road. He was upstairs in that front bedroom. Laid out.

Mark:
Free.

Ray:
Yeah. Yeah. I've gone up there, gone in. I'm sitting on the bed looking at him. He's laying there like... Mullered. And it was like he'd shrunk, you know? He was a big man.

Mark:
He was a lump.

Ray:
Yeah. You should know. You got enough clumps off the cunt. (sighs) And I just touched him, you know? He was fucking freezing cold. It frightened the life out of me. I was looking at him, you know? For the first time in my life, I talked to him. I said, "Why didn't you ever love me?"

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