Nil by Mouth (film)

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Nil by Mouth
Nil by mouth poster.jpg
Directed by Gary Oldman
Produced by Gary Oldman
Douglas Urbanski
Luc Besson
Written by Gary Oldman
Starring Ray Winstone
Kathy Burke
Charlie Creed-Miles
Music by Eric Clapton
Cinematography Ron Fortunato
Edited by Brad Fuller
Distributed by Fox Film Corporation (United Kingdom)
ARP Sélection (France)
Release dates
  • 8 May 1997 (1997-05-08) (Cannes Film Festival)
  • 10 October 1997 (1997-10-10) (United Kingdom)
  • 5 November 1997 (1997-11-05) (France)
Running time
128 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $9 million[2]
Box office $266,130[2]

Nil by Mouth is a 1997 British-French drama film portraying a family of characters living in South East London. It was Gary Oldman's debut as a writer and director; the film was produced by Douglas Urbanski and Luc Besson. It stars Ray Winstone as Raymond, the abusive husband of Valerie (Kathy Burke). The film was a critical success, winning numerous awards.

Time Out considered Nil by Mouth to be the 21st best British film.[3]


In a working class London district lives Raymond, his wife Valerie, her brother Billy, Billy's mother Janet and their grandmother Kath. Billy is a drug addict whom Raymond kicks out. The family is dysfunctional, mostly due to Raymond's short temper and violent outbursts.



The film depicts the environment Oldman witnessed growing up on a council estate in South East London. Oldman's sister Laila Morse plays Janet and his mother voices a song in the film. The title is a medical instruction (literally "nothing by mouth"), meaning that a patient must not take food or water. It is set to the soundtrack "Peculiar Groove" by Frances Ashman.


In 2001, Mind The Gap Theatre performed a stage adaptation in New York City as part of the British Airways sponsored UKwithNYC.

The screenplay, with introduction by Douglas Urbanski, was published in 1997 by ScreenPress Books.

A photo-diary of the film's production, containing photos by Jack English, was published in 1998 by ScreenPress Books.


Nil by Mouth received generally positive reviews, currently holding a 65% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4] Roger Ebert awarded the film 3.5/4 stars, writing: "The film's portrait of street life in South London is unflinching and observant."[5]

The film grossed $266,130 from 18 theatres in North America.[2]

Nil by Mouth features the word "cunt" 82 times, more than any other film in history. It also features around 428 uses of the word "fuck",[6] more than any film at the time until Summer of Sam beat it 2 years later. It still holds the record for the number of uses of "fuck" per minute in a dramatic film.

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1997 Cannes Film Festival:
  • 1997 Edinburgh International Film Festival:
    • Winner: Channel 4 Director's Award (Gary Oldman)
  • 1997 European Film Awards:
    • Nominee: Best Cinematographer (Ray Fortunato)
  • 1997 BAFTA Awards:
    • Winner: Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film (Luc Besson, Douglas Urbanski)
    • Winner: BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay (Gary Oldman)
    • Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Ray Winstone)
    • Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Kathy Burke)
  • 1998 British Independent Film Awards:
    • Winner: Best Performance by a British Actor in an Independent Film (Ray Winstone)
    • Winner: Best Performance by a British Actress in an Independent Film (Kathy Burke)
    • Winner: Most Promising Newcomer in any Category (Laila Morse)
    • Nominee: Best British Director of an Independent Film (Gary Oldman)
    • Nominee: Best British Independent Film
    • Nominee: Best Original Screenplay by a British Writer of a Produced Independent Film (Gary Oldman)
  • 1998 Empire Awards:
    • Winner: Best Debut (Gary Oldman)
  • 1997 Royal Variety Club of Great Britain
    • Winner: Best Film Actress (Kathy Burke)[8]
  • 1997: Golden Frog Award:
    • Nominee: Cinematography (Ron Fortunato)


  1. ^ "NILS BY MOUTH (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 22 July 1997. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Nil By Mouth (1997)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Nil By Mouth at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^ Roger Ebert review
  6. ^ Swear word frequency
  7. ^ a b "Festival de Cannes: Nil by Mouth". Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  8. ^ Kathy Burke winner of Royal Variety Club Great Britain: Best Film Actress

External links[edit]