Thursday, October 7, 2010

Another Year

This is the third movie I've seen at this years NY film fest, and so far its been 3 for 3. Instead of writing about Mike Leigh's latest; Another Year right away, i needed a couple of days to let it sink in. At first, i thought the movie was just "good". I had nothing bad to say about it, but i didn't think it was on the level of Leigh's other movies like Naked or Vera Drake. Now that the movie has finally sunk in a bit, and I've had a few days to think about it, i finally see this movies greatness. Great acting (which is ALWAYS the case in any of Mike Leigh's movies), a subtle yet powerful ending about loneliness and a complex mix of both comedy and drama. Another Year falls more in to the high hopes/life is sweet/all or nothing category and less in the naked/secret & Lies/vera drake category of Mike Leigh films. He continues to stick to his regular theme of focusing on "regular", everyday (english) people, and the ups & downs that we can all relate too (although Leigh does tend to focus a little more on the "down" from time to time).
Another Year centers around happily married couple; Tom (husband) and Gerri (wife), played by Mike Leigh regulars; Jim Broadbent & Ruth Sheen, and the people that pass through their lives. They may have problems like any other married couple in their 60's, but at the end of they day, life is great for them. However, it seems that everyone around them has problems. During the coarse of the film (which spans a year), family and friends visit, and at some point or another wind up unloading their problems on the couple. These characters include; Mary (Played by Lesley Manvile) - a depressed, lonely, (and sometimes) annoying co-worker of Gerri's, who also happens to have a crush on Tom & Gerri's son. Ken - Tom's younger brother, who's smoking, drinking and eating himself in to an early grave. And Tom's older brother who's having a tough time copping with the recent death of his wife (not mention he and son haven't been on speaking terms in years). Like i said before, Tom & Gerri may have flaws like anyone, but the film doesn't focus on their problems. Leigh sculpts the 2 main characters out to be very paternal and warm, making it a natural thing to confide in them.
The two actors who stood out the most were; Lesley Manville and Imelda Staunton (who's most famous role was in Mike Leigh's Vera Drake, which i consider one of best movies of the last decade). Even though Staunton was only in 2 scenes, she managed be the 2nd most memorable character in the film, playing a depressed housewife who when ask to think of the last time she was happy cant recall anything. Its kind of amazing how an actor can play a completely depressed person, nothing comical in the performance at all, yet we're still meant to laugh at that person. This is another example of Leigh's complex mixture of comedy and drama. Lesley Manville probably gave the performance of her career as far as I'm concerned. Although at the same time, one of my main concerns about the film has to do with that character. It seems like she's the only character in the film that remains the same from beginning to end. Everyone grows except her. In addition to those standout actors, the rest of the cast is great as well.
If you aren't familiar with Leigh's work, i would actually recommend this as an introduction to his films (although i would recommend Life is Sweet or Naked. Its not as intense as Naked (although Another Year does have its serious moments) although not as light-hearted as Happy Go Lucky. It has a lot of his regular actors, and a lot of his common themes found in all his other movies. Another year is almost like a throwback to his early bbc tv plays (for those of you familiar with them), that's slightly more polished, but with authentic realism and rawness.


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