An unemployed Brit vents his rage on unsuspecting strangers as he embarks on a nocturnal London odyssey.
Mike Leigh's 1993 film NAKED is a drama on sexual relations -- how men hurt women, how some women accept that hurt out of low self-esteem and a desire to be wanted or supported. It is distinguished by its remarkably lifelike characters. Most of the film was worked out in improvisations for several months before shooting began. Leigh wanted his actors to create elaborate back stories for their characters, fully living inside of them so that when the cameras started rolling they would be completely convincing. As the film opens, Johnny (David Thewlis) has to flee Manchester after a sexual encounter with a married woman turns into rape and she threatens to set her husband after him. Stealing a car, he heads to London to crash at his ex-girlfriend Louise (Lesley Sharp), gets involved with her flatmate Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge), and spends a couple of nights homeless in London. Interspliced with this are scenes of Jeremy, a rich real estate broker whose sexual conquests serve as an upper-class counterpart to Johnny's own. Naturally the viewer is led to wonder what will happen when these two men meet. Something is wrong with Johnny, he answers anything said to him with a rambling torrent of words, a logorrhea that is a form of intellectual bullying; this deeply wounded man seems to feel the best defense against the cruelties of the world is a good offense. Only 27, Johnny is so wasted that he is taken for much older. In this, Thewlis's performance is one of the masterful screen portrayals of an eccentric or mentally ill person, like Dustin Hoffmann in RAIN MAN or Peter Sellers in BEING THERE. But all of the characters here are memorable, and my thoughts have often gone back to them in the time since I saw this film. I do have reservations about the plot, inasmuch as the last scenes of the film (which were decided only late in the filmmaking process) too suddenly change the tone and may seem anticlimactic. Nonetheless, I would recommend this film and believe it a great one in spite of its undeniable flaws.