Another Year, Dir. Mike Leigh (2010)

Tom (Jim Broadbent), Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and Joe (Oliver Maltman), the model middle-class family.

 

Rating: 9/10

Definitely one of my favourite films of the year, and up there with Topsy Turvy and Happy Go-lucky as one of my favourite Mike Leigh films so far (have yet to see his other renowned films such as Secrets & Lies or Vera Drake). The film follows the lives, through the seasons, of happy middle-class married couple Tom, an engineer,  and Gerri, a therapist,  played by Leigh veterans Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen. They live a contented and model  life attending to their allotment and catching up with their equally contented son Joe, (Oliver Maltman), a solicitor.

But they are anchors in a storm that surrounds them (let’s face it something had to disrupt their lives otherwise it would all be boring and undramatic) as their comfortable life is frequently disrupted by friends and family, such as Gerri’s co-worker Mary (Lesley Manville), who is a seething torrent of emotion, insecurity and neediness; a middle-aged woman, unlucky in love, who feels desperately lonely,  and clings onto Tom and Mary for respite and solace. Or the overweight  and also lonely Ken (Peter Wright) who like Mary is prone to bouts of depression after one too many drinks, and makes desperate passes at Mary, obviously sensing her loneliness. And then there’s Tom’s brother the monosyllabic Ronnie (David Bradley) who is lost and lonely (yes that word again) and when his wife die and who comes to stay with Tom and Gerri to recuperate.  He also has to deal with an ungrateful, rude and angry son (Martin Savage).

Mary who is used to dealing with depressed people in her job nevertheless has a trying time dealing with Mary’s behaviour, as she flirts desperately with Joe and then behaves like a petulant teenager when he brings home his new girlfriend Katie (Karina Fernandez). She is a movingly sad character one who brings disaster with her wherever she goes, and for whom hardly anything seems to work out the close-ups on her mournful face as she listens to Joe and Katie’s romantic getaway plans (something she’s always hoped for) are heart-rending.

The acting as to be expected in a Leigh film, is note perfect and is naturalistic and engrossing, this is a film that works on how true to life it is, everyone probably knows someone like Mary, or Tom and Gerri, (and as Mary says, “everyone needs someone to talk to”) and it’s all the more rewarding for that.  One of the only faults of the film was that Joe’s girlfriend Katie was rather irritating with her ‘quirky’ constantly upbeat attitude, which made you wonder why Joe would want to be with her. The only other fault was that film ended too early, I really wanted to find out what would happen to Mary. As the best films do Another Year leaves you wondering about the characters long after the film is finished, having embraced the characters as if they real. A moving and insightful film.

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