A fascinating, aggressively verbose slice of British squalor. Johnny (David Thewlis), a 27-year-old drifter, shambles into London from Manchester, insinuates himself into the lives of everyone he meets, and never shuts up. Johnny is one of those brilliant losers who have ample time to think about why everything sucks, and he’s always spewing one apocalyptic theory or another. (His bar-code theory makes a weird kind of sense.) The film isn’t just about Johnny — its true subject is the lonely people (including the late, great Katrin Cartlidge) who accept this scabrous slacker into their lives because their lives feel so empty. Johnny fills their time and space with words and sometimes harsh shagging. Writer-director Mike Leigh, with his legendary method of leaving his cast alone to explore their characters for months before a frame is shot, finds edgy humor in this abyss, and vibrant life, too. It’s a great ensemble movie, but Thewlis (long before he gained kiddie cred in the Harry Potter movies) is a revelation; he makes Johnny both punk-rock nihilistic and oddly gentle — an unstable mix of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious — so that you can’t pin him down from scene to scene. Highly recommended, as are all of Leigh’s other films.

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