Videos: Delayed reunions, chance encounters

Career Girls (15), Film Four (available to rent 23 Feb)
If the epic Secrets & Lies took as much out of its director as it demanded of its audience, it's no wonder Mike Leigh shifted down a gear with Career Girls. The ever-innocent Annie (Lynda Steadman) comes to spend a weekend in London with her spiky college flat-mate of 10 years ago, Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge), and this slight premise is all the prompting Leigh needs to indulge some of his favourite scenarios. A series of flashbacks to the girls' mid-Eighties student days dissects the crisis-laden fag end of adolescence with Leigh's typically pathological relish.

The young Annie recalls no-one so much as Harry Enfield's Kevin the Teenager (in her appearance, if not her crippling shyness). Leigh seems to rely a little too heavily on caricature, both here and with the gallery of old and new faces the girls meet over their reunion weekend. That isn't to say that these scenes aren't amusing or moving by turn - Cartlidge and Steadman's mannered performances as the young girls give way confidently to their compelling portrayals of the mature Hannah and Annie. But this reliance on coincidence and memory lays Leigh's emotional manipulations a little too bare. 5/5

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