One of the best films ever made about class division is "High Hopes," a powerful and often funny street-level look at England under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
There are no complex plot twists or high-paced action sequences in this film. It's a classic character movie in which emotions and ideas stand center stage--the type of small, intelligent film that simply can't get made within the Hollywood studio system.
What makes "High Hopes" such a splendid work is its handful of unforgettable characters. There's the aging, embittered Mrs. Bender. Living in a newly gentrified neighborhood, this working-class widow is like a run-down Ford parked in a sea of sparkling BMWs. She hardly utters a word throughout the movie, yet her wilted spirit comes across loud and clear.
Mrs. Bender's encounter with her neighbors--an intensely foul yuppie couple named Rupert and Laetitia Boothe-Brane--is one of the film's many memorable scenes. Seeking refuge with the Boothe-Branes after misplacing her house key, she finds herself derided like a peasant who has dared impose upon the Royal Family. Director Mike Leigh handles this sequence with a subtle mix of comedy and drama. There's no missing Leigh's point that age and class discrimination are real and inexcusable social problems.