High Hopes (1988 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

High Hopes
High Hopes.jpg
Directed byMike Leigh
Produced byVictor Glynn
Simon Channing-Williams
Written byMike Leigh
Music byAndrew Dickson
CinematographyRoger Pratt
Edited byJon Gregory
Distributed bySkouras Films (USA)
Release date
24 September 1988
Running time
112 min
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£1.28 million[1]
Box office$1.1 million[2]

High Hopes is a 1988 film directed by Mike Leigh, focusing on an extended working-class family living in King's Cross, London, and elsewhere.

The film primarily examines Cyril (Philip Davis) and Shirley (Ruth Sheen), a motor-cycle courier and his girlfriend, along with their friends, neighbours, and Cyril's mother and sister.

Despite staying true to Leigh's down-at-the-heel, realist style, the film is ultimately a social comedy concerning culture clashes between different classes and belief systems. According to the critic Michael Coveney', "As in Meantime, High Hopes contrasts the economic and spiritual conditions of siblings. And in developing some of the themes in Babies Grow Old and Grown-Ups, it presents a brilliantly organised dramatic résumé of attitudes towards parturition and old age."[3]


Previous work[edit]

Prior to High Hopes, director Mike Leigh had made two films, Bleak Moments, which had been released seventeen years earlier, in 1971 and Meantime in 1983.[4] This gap in his filmography was attributable in part to his process for creating films: when he applied for financial backing, he did not yet have finished scripts, preferring to allow actors, once they were hired, to use improv sessions to create the dialogue.[4] As a result, given the absence of a concrete script, many potential financial backers were reluctant to support Leigh's work.[4]



The film centers on Cyril and Shirley, a loving London couple whose "badly-placed" optimism inspired the title of the film; they live in the King's Cross area of London.[5][6] The plot centers on the interaction of Cyril and his family with members of England's different social classes, including his elderly mother, who lives in a gentrifying neighborhood; Valerie, his "nouveau riche" sister; Laetitia and Rupert, his mother's upper-class neighbors; and a country traveler who stays with Cyril and whom they nickname "E.T." because he repeatedly fails to make his way home.[5] Both Cyril and Shirley are highly critical of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Shirley names one of her cactuses after her.[5]

The film's second half has been described as more thematically serious compared to the first half.[5] One central event to the film is when Cyril's mother loses her keys, and is as a result forced to rely on her wealthy neighbors and her children for assistance, displaying a stark contrast between the lifestyles of the different classes. At one point, Mrs. Bender's lexicon differs significantly from that of Laetitia, as when the latter corrects her for using the term "toilet" as opposed to "lavatory", and when Laetitia tells Mrs. Bender "chop chop" when the latter is, in her view, taking too long to ascend the stairs to her apartment.[5][6] Later on, Laetitia throws their mother an "indescribably vulgar" party for her seventieth birthday.[5]


One theme displayed throughout the film is that no two characters fully understand each other's perspectives or lives, with the sole exceptions of Cyril and Shirley.[5] In a review for Sight & Sound, critic Gilbert Adair posits that the film's themes are akin to those of the writings of Auberon Waugh, in that both sought to portray the lifestyles of the working classes. However, Adair continued, whereas Waugh's goal was to encourage self-described liberal audiences to trust their inner fears of the working classes, Leigh's objective is to encourage audiences to instead trust their liberal ideals, not their fears of the working classes.[6]




Upon its release, the film was well received. On critical aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 100 percent, based on ten reviews.[7] The New York Times designated it as a "critic's pick" and commended it for being "enjoyably whimsical without ever losing its cutting edge".[5] Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars and concluded that it was "an alive and challenging film, one that throws our own assumptions and evasions back at us".[4]

Box office[edit]

The film made £245,549 in the UK.[1]

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Back to the Future: The Fall and Rise of the British Film Industry in the 1980s - An Information Briefing" (PDF). British Film Institute. 2005. p. 24.
  2. ^ "High Hopes (1989) - Box Office Mojo". boxofficemojo.com.
  3. ^ Michael Coveney, The World according to Mike Leigh p.189
  4. ^ a b c d Ebert, Roger (14 April 1989). "Reviews : High Hopes". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Leigh, Mike (24 September 1988). "Film Festival: A Portrait of Thatcher's England". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Adair, Gilbert (January 1989). "Classtrophobia: High Hopes". Sight and Sound: 64–65. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  7. ^ "High Hopes (1988) at Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 6 March 2021.

External links[edit]