Domestic chaos is the order of the day in this amiable, London-based comedy in which downwardly-mobile characters wrestle with marital and financial problems in situations so realistic and vivid that after 20 minutes you feel as if you've been transported into a friend's living room.
The McAllisters are an Irish couple scraping by in Kentish Town: Gerry (Rea) is a wheezy town planner who seems resigned to his lot, but his wife Ellie (Cusack) is frustrated by a routine that revolves around part-time employment and their two young sons. She envies her single friend Winifred (Mary Jo Randle) who in turn longs for family life.
Howard Spink (Jackson), the local swindler, pulls off scams which enrage Gerry and identical twin builders Ray and Roy (Daniels, playing both brothers). But most desperate of all is Jess (Higgins) who seeks refuge in a Hemel Hempstead monastery following the breakdown of her marriage. Director Blair and his cast have built up the script through improvisation, and there's a pleasing awkwardness to the social exchanges, while the intimate conversations between Gerry and Ellie mix nagging resentments with deep-seated tenderness.
Not that there's too much sentiment on display - Rea's wry humour ensures that emotions are kept firmly in check, breathing life into a character who is funny, confused and painfully human. Recommended.