Leigh reverts to type: good news for anyone who feared our harshest caricaturist might be losing his edge, not so good for those who felt Secrets & Lies represented a personal breakthrough in its emotional maturity, dramatic coherence and overriding compassion. Presumably, even its admirers would acknowledge that this is a less ambitious piece than its predecessor. The film mirrors Leigh's own development in two contrasting time frames. In the present, Hannah (Cartlidge) and Annie (Steadman) are composed, self-assured young women making their way in society. Ten years earlier, as student flatmates, they were a bundle of nervous tics, inflamed allergies and shrill neuroses. Leigh's eye for detail is precise, but the hysterical, mannered antics of the flashbacks are over-pitched and alienating. Cartlidge, particularly, seems to have angst in her pants. The present tense material comes as some relief, then, with its prevailing mood of calm introspection, the actresses delicately adumbrating the hesitant intimacy of old friends after a long separation. Yet Leigh is at a loss to develop this situation. They drop in on a sexist yuppie for a spot of tired, knee-jerk 'satire', encounter a smarmy estate agent who fails to recognise them with their clothes on, and finally they meet Ricky (Benton), a massive, stammering wreck of a man who may just represent the conscience of this thin, disappointing film.