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
Music by Eric Clapton
Cinematography Ron Fortunato
Edited by Brad Fuller
Distributed by 20th Century Fox (United Kingdom)
ARP Sélection (France)
Release date
  • 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 Kathy. Billy is a drug addict whom Raymond kicks out when he steals drugs from Ray himself. Billy hangs out with his heroin addict friends and they shoot up together. The family is dysfunctional, mostly due to Raymond's fiery-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; as of 2014, the record for most uses of the F-word in a dramatic film is currently held by Swearnet: The Movie, which boasts 934 utterances of said obscenity.

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:
  • 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]