After directing nearly 20 years of TV movies and a few well-received features, filmmaker Mike Leigh found a heap of acclaim for this unique 1996 family drama about the quiet secrets we all keep and the dangers of such silence. Leigh and his solid UK cast take a seemingly simple tale - an adopted woman meets her birth mother - and unleash a raw, well-layered character piece that examines the complexities of relationship. Their efforts resulted in five Oscar nominations and won Leigh the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.

Leigh's storied, unconventional approach to filmmaking is part acting workshop, part pure cinema... and a performer's dream. He assembles a troupe of players, introduces them to character and storyline, and works through weeks of improvisation. The movie's dialogue and action are created on the spot during that exercise, are later morphed into a note-jammed screenplay, and then become a polished film.

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