Three early films from director Mike Leigh are included on this collection:
FOUR DAYS IN JULY: Director Mike Leigh aims his sardonic wit at the situation in Northern Ireland with this study of two expectant couples that are awaiting their impending childbirths amidst the celebration of a British national holiday. Eugene (Desmond McAleer) and Collette (Brid Brennan) are gentle Catholics living in Belfast. Eugene walks with the aid of crutches, after having been caught in the crossfire of the Irish-English political squabbles. Billy (Charles Lawson) and Lorraine (Paula Hamilton) are Protestants who support the I.R.A., to the extent that Billy himself is a soldier in the army. As the days progress, both couples wait calmly, yet excitedly, for the moment to arrive. When that happens, both men are thrust together in the same waiting room. Early the next morning, Collette and Lorraine meet while nursing their new babies. Leigh's film is less in your face than his other made-for-television dramas, choosing to explore the religious and political differences in Belfast with a subtle, bipartisan eye. It is this leisurely approach that adds humanity to each couple's life, not allowing the viewer to choose sides. In the four lead roles, McAleer, Brennan, Lawson, and Hamilton deliver highly credible performances, as is typical with the ensemble work of Leigh.
HOME SWEET HOME: This bittersweet drama from social realist director Mike Leigh focuses on the day-to-day activities of one not-so-jolly postman and his two supposed buddies. Deserted by his wife many years before, Stan (Eric Richard) has decided to make up for his losses by having affairs with the wives of Gordon (Timothy Spall), a complaining drunk, and Harold (Tim Barker), a deeply compassionate, though utterly clueless, husband. It is painfully evident that Stan disapproves of his actions, as well as his life, yet he continues to avoid dealing with his loneliness by pursuing these affairs. He is also avoiding his 14-year-old daughter, Tina (Lorraine Brunning), who he left at a social services home in order to shirk responsibility. When all involved participants stumble into each other at Stan's home, the truth eventually comes out, with outrageous results. With HOME SWEET HOME, Leigh turns up the confrontation notch a few levels by bringing the affairs out into the open, adding more of a melodramatic flavor to the picture. The result is another unforgettable slice-of-working-class-life drama, with standout performances from Richard, Barker, and Spall.
KISS OF DEATH: In KISS OF DEATH, director Mike Leigh leaves social class issues behind to concentrate on this personal story about Trevor (David Threlfall), a young undertaker's assistant who lacks the social skills to successfully court a woman. His best friend, Ronnie (John Wheatley), is a grocery store clerk who is dating Sandra (Angela Curran). Fed up with Trevor's constant tagging along, Sandra jumps at the opportunity to introduce him to Linda (Kay Adshead), a rambunctious former coworker. After a shaky start, Trevor and Linda finally begin dating. While their relationship is getting underway, Ronnie tries to get Sandra into bed, albeit unsuccessfully. After a night out at a local disco, the couples' affections begin to shift and new feelings are born.