By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated February 20, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

Nil By Mouth, actor Gary Oldman’s passionate first effort as writer-director is an intense domestic drama about a furious, clueless, drunken South London bully (Ray Winstone) who viciously beats his pregnant wife (terrific Kathy Burke), kicks his pathetic drug-addicted brother out of the house, and generally terrorizes his family. Oldman works with documentary-style dispassion, and the effect is startling. But in his pursuit of emotional immediacy, the filmmaker stints on context: How did this sorry family get to such a crisis state, anyway? B

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