Nil by Mouth (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

Nil by Mouth1998

Nil by Mouth (1998)



Critic Consensus: Foul-mouthed and unrelentingly bleak, Nil By Mouth is a prickly viewing experience that nevertheless impresses with its authentic blue collar angst and ferocious performances.

Nil by Mouth Photos

Movie Info

Gary Oldman returned to his East London roots with this semi-autobiographical drama of domestic violence and alcoholism. Kathy Burke received the 1997 Cannes Best Actress award. Music by Eric Clapton. Produced by Oldman, Luc Besson (The Fifth Element), and Douglas Urbanski.


Ray Winstone
as Raymond
Kathy Burke
as Valerie
Terry Rowley
as M.C. in Club
Gerry Bromfield
as Drug Dealer
Neil Maskell
as Schmuddie
Ronny Fox
as Peter
Sam Miller
as Club Comic
Sid Golder
as Old Guy in Window
John Blundell
as Man with Knife
Kenan Hudaverdi
as Laundrette Owner
Everton Nelson
as Street Violinist
Frances Ashman
as Club Singer
Martin Watson
as Club--Band Musician
Dan Carey
as Club--Band Musician
Giuseppe Acunzo
as Club--Band Musician
Scott Edmund Lane
as Club--Band Musician
View All

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Critic Reviews for Nil by Mouth

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (9)

Nil By Mouth offers a harrowing look at a working-class family beset by drugs, alcohol and abuse.

January 9, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Top Critic

There's so much authenticity and raw emotion here that most viewers will be able to excuse the fact that they don't understand any of the dialogue.

December 24, 2005 | Rating: 3/5

Something primal, needful and anguished is going on here.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Kathy Burke gives a brilliant, award-winning performance as Val, a woman trapped in a dysfunctional relationship with her abusive husband...

May 10, 2021 | Full Review…

An uncompromising drama.

December 23, 2003 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

Imagine a movie where every character is played by Gary Oldman, in the drunken overacting Oldman mode. Oldman's unfocused and self-indulgent directorial debut has moments of poignancy and insight, but not enough to make it endurable.

August 11, 2003 | Rating: D+

Audience Reviews for Nil by Mouth

'Nil By Mouth' is a potent, relentless dose of real life; a portrait of the dead-end cycle of violence, abuse, addiction and poverty that occurs in cities all over the world. Though a trifle convoluted (there are a few scenes that contribute little or nothing to the film), it is a genuinely moving, visceral experience. Don't be mistaken, this is not another trashy British gangster flick, far from it. Ray Winstone(Ray) and Kathy Burke (Valerie) are both tremendous, their performances stop the film from descending into the realm of 'The Football Factory' or 'Rise of the Footsoldier'. It's also the script that distinguishes it from such films which, on face value, appear comparable. The script has ample profanity, and I really mean ample, it's the most profane film I've ever seen, but it also has segments of real poignancy. Burke and Winstone interpreted the script perfectly. Winstone's performance is unsettlingly convincing; some may say he's one-dimensional, but he really is a rather good actor. It is Kathy Burke's moments that are the most moving, chiefly a scene where she desperately tells a white-lie: it's genuinely upsetting. The film is rightfully spared of romanticism, it's completely devoid of poetic licence, what you see is pure, candid realism. Ironically, the film isn't pure at all, it's gritty and unrestrained in its depiction of violence and vulgarity; one moment being particularly horrifying. To criticise the film for being 'unfocused' is missing the point. To me, it was an almost non- linear insight into the human condition, a film woven from the personal experiences of Gary Oldman and delivered with the utmost conviction from Burke, Winstone and indeed the whole cast.

Jack Hawkins
Jack Hawkins

Super Reviewer

Dark and violent but packed with unflinching honesty and grit.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


The words "gritty", "British" and "drama" usually and rightfully condemn a film to the Guy "Windsor" Ritchie hall of excrement . Having seen these terms applied to Oscar contenders like "Goodbye Charlie Bright", "Rancid aluminium" and "Love, honour and obey", I wasn't really expecting much from this film. Saying I was wrong would be a huge understatement. "Nil by Mouth" is an awesome achievement. A razor sharp dissection of a working class south London family that delivers the required punch on so many levels that you need to have a wash after watching it. It covers a vast spectrum of emotions that will see you (especially if you're British) laugh, cry and more often than not, hold your head in despair at witnessing an all too true account of what it is to be at the bottom of the British class system. It is unflinchingly brutal and somewhat depressing, yet at the same time shows how with guts, determination and a healthy sense of humour, people can survive even the most bleak and hopeless of situations. Kathy Burke is outstanding and Ray Winstone is dependable as ever, but Gary Oldman's screenplay and direction are the stars of the show. This script could stand on it's own as a fine social commentary on par, and not dissimilar from John King's "The Football Factory" and "Headhunters". Thankfully Oldman has also realised that in terms of direction, "gritty" does not have to mean the static, cold and quite frankly boring as hell style that so many British films have. The camera moves with a documentary feel energy, yet the slick cinematography keeps it from ever looking cheap. Quite simply one of the greatest British films of all time.

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

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