Life is Sweet

Year: 1991
David's Character: Nicola's Lover
Director(s): Mike Leigh
Other Stars: Alison Steadman, Jane Horrocks & Timothy Spall
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Screen time: 10 minutes

Andy, a professional cook, buys a dilapidated fast-food van from his disreputable friend Patsy. He plans to clean it, restore and put it into service. His wife Wendy is highly sceptical about the project. His daughters Natalie and Nicola have quite different attitudes; Natalie thinks it's a good idea if it'll keep her father happy, whereas Nicola contemptuously dismisses Andy as a "Capitalist!" Late at night, Nicola binges unhappily on chocolate and snacks, then forces herself to vomit. Her sister, awake in the next room, overhears this.

Aubrey, a friend of the family, is opening a restaurant named The Regret Rien. Wendy accepts a part-time job as waitress in the restaurant, but her and Andy's confidence in the scheme is undermined by Aubrey's unorthodox approach to cuisine; his menu includes such dishes as Saveloy on a bed of Lychees, Liver in Lager and Pork Cyst.

Nicola's lover comes to the family home to have sex with her while the others are out. It appears that Nicola can only be aroused by having her lover lick chocolate spread off her chest, which he rather reluctantly agrees to. He ultimately loses patience with her, accusing her of being "a bit vacant" and of being incapable of having an adult conversation. He leaves her, and her emotional state grows worse.

The opening night of The Regret Rien is a disaster. Aubrey forgot to advertise the opening of the restaurant, with the result that no customers turn up. Aubrey gets hopelessly drunk, tells Wendy that he fancies her, starts taking his clothes off and passes out. Wendy is forced to deal not only with him but with his glum, passive and infatuated sous-chef, Paula.

Andy and Patsy go to the pub and get drunk. Andy ends up slumbering inside the rotting fast-food van in his driveway. Wendy returns home from the disastrous opening night of Aubrey's restaurant to find him there, and for the first time she loses her temper with the whole family.

Nicola becomes more and more bitter and aggressive, and Wendy finally confronts her. In the course of a long conversation, Wendy makes it clear to Nicola that she is deeply worried about her. It emerges that during an earlier phase of Nicola's anorexia, she almost starved to death. Ashamed and angry, Nicola is convinced that Wendy and the rest of the family must hate her, but Wendy angrily responds "We don't hate you! We bloody love you, you stupid girl!" and leaves the room, upset. Nicola's armor is shattered and she breaks down.

Meanwhile, Andy is seen running his kitchen at work with energy and authority. He slips on a spoon and breaks his ankle. Wendy receives the news with a characteristic mixture of sympathy and amusement. She drives him home from the hospital. Wendy goes back to Nicola's room, and mother and daughter are reconciled.

The film ends with Natalie and Nicola sitting peacefully in the back garden. Natalie observes that Nicola must own up to her parents about her bulimia. She then asks Nicola "D'you want some money?" and Nicola accepts gratefully, the first time in the film where she has accepted an offer of help.