NAKED (1993)

Naked is a 1993 British film by director Mike Leigh; the film follows our main character Johnny as he wanders about the streets of London and intellectually torments every character he comes across. He has no home as far as we can tell and we are introduced to this mysterious character in Manchester at his absolute worst. The aftermath of his actions force Johnny to leave Manchester and go to London to stay with his ex girlfriend Louise. He meets Sophie (Louise’s roommate) as he waits for Louise to come back to her apartment and from the get go Sophie seems like a hopeless, vulnerable and desperate character. Johnny uses his intellect and charm for good and evil and he can talk his way into anybody’s home. He sees every person he meets as a means to find shelter for the night or to provoke people with his criticism of their lives. Sophie unsurprisingly gets involved with Johnny and welcomes pain with open arms as he finds her repulsive and clingy. Louise seems like the only character that Johnny seems emotionally vulnerable to because of their deep history. We come to find out that they had dated for a year which seems like a miracle for an all knowing, miserable and self-destructive character like Johnny to find comfort in a significant other. It is not soon before he leaves Louise’s fortress to which he was always welcome to and takes off into the night to find shelter elsewhere where he is just an unknown entity that barges into people’s lives.

He meets a Scottish druggy who is looking for his equally spaced out counterpart; he keeps screaming “Maggie!!!” every couple of minutes as if he could summon her like a magician. Johnny shares a cigarette with this bloke who he is absolutely fascinated by and he helps him reunite with his girlfriend. He also meets a kind security guard that lets him in to the empty property he is protecting; Johnny thinks he has the most tedious job, “protecting space” which can’t possibly be stolen. They have deep discussions about what it means to be in the present and how the future doesn’t exist, and so forth; Johnny uses the book of revelations to make his point about there being no future and the impending doom that is the apocalypse. The dialogue in this film is too clever and it creates a dark comical tone at the beginning and it sustains it throughout the entire period of the film. David Thewlis is absolutely brilliant as Johnny and he gives one of those rare performances that make you feel honored to have witnessed a performance of the highest caliber. In one scene of self-fulfilling prophecy, Johnny makes a funny joke about being a werewolf which is ironic because David Thewlis would one day get to play a werewolf in the Harry Potter series which I found hilarious. I saw Johnny as a damaged and at times angelic figure who is manipulating people and purposely depriving himself of a normal life. There are moments in the film that are genuinely hilarious, and others that make you question if you should be laughing at what is being said. Other times it is uncomfortable to watch what some of these broken characters do in the film. The overall look of the film is also alienating and there are never people around or in the city and it all looks dreadful; it is as if everyone chose to stay at home for the duration of the shoot.

There is a character who we come to know as Jeremy (Louise’s landlord from hell) towards the end of the movie and I thought the character was the devil himself. He is a vile character who acts superior to everyone he encounters and  abuses women throughout the entire film. His presence is strongly felt and it makes you wary as an audience that he is lurking in the background even though he has no association with our main character until the very end. This character is similar to Johnny in that they both act superior to others but in completely different ways. Johnny acts superior by using his intelligence and wit and preys on who he believes to be the weak and there is a scholastic demeanor about him, like he is lecturing the people he comes across. Jeremy has a roof over his head and he is rich while Johnny seems penniless and seems to thrive on human interaction and being homeless as strange as that sounds. He is very charming and can light up any room he walks into if he wants while Jeremy uses his social status to take advantage of women. In the end, there is hope for Johnny as he is given an option to lead a normal life even after all the terrible things he has done. You admire Louise for sticking with him for a year because she must have kept him, of all people, grounded and what an incredible person she must be for that resilience and ability to keep up with him.  You get hints of the history of their relationship in subtle moments with smiles and jokes and by the end they are singing a lullaby together. You get the sense that something tragic must have happened to Johnny for him to have such a bleak view on life; the ending to this film is a famous long shot of Johnny hopelessly limping away and it is beautifully heartbreaking. This is an essential viewing for any film lover out there who enjoys great performances and appreciates naturalistic dialogue which this film had plenty of because the director made the actors improvise scenes so he could generate or modify his script. I think this is easily one of the best films of the 90’s that will continue to stand the test of time. (10/10)


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