Synopsis by Brian Whitener
In this early film, award-winning director Mike Leigh uses a loose, open-ended narrative structure to unsettle cinematic expectations and create a truly inventive and very honest film. High Hopes opens with the arrival of Wayne, a small-town lad in his twenties, in the London metropolis. Completely lost in the hustle and bustle, Wayne asks for directions from a cyclist named Cyril. Unable to assist him, Cyril brings Wayne to his house to examine a map and meet his long-time girlfriend, Shirley, also a working-class intellectual. After the opening credits roll, Wayne, equipped with directions, leaves and turns to wave goodbye to the helpful couple. Completely unexpectedly the camera stays with Cyril and Shirley, Wayne exits the film as a minor character, and the viewer's notions of what to expect from a narrative drama are completely shaken. Throughout, High Hopes' seemingly innocuous events turn out to be crucial incidents in the characters' lives. After this abrupt change of direction, Cyril and Shirley pay a visit to Cyril's aging mother, Mrs. Bender, and meet her neighbors, the vapid Boothe-Braines. In a parallel story, we meet Cyril's high-strung sister, Valerie, who perpetually neglects her mother as she herself is neglected by her wandering husband, Martin. The remainder of the film explores the dull, unfulfilled lives of the middle class and the wasteful and purposeless lives of the upper-middle class (the Boothe-Braines), and Cyril and Shirley's struggle to decide if they should bring a child into this mess of a world. As with his other films, Leigh did not work from a script in filming High Hopes, relying instead on the actors' improvisations which contribute to the lyrical, open-ended quality of the narrative.
slice-of-life, couple, middle-class, pregnancy, friendship, hippie, marriage, culture [social culture], cycling, liberal, romance