Rating: 8/10 - Excellent
I had not yet watched a Mike Leigh film before but I had heard only good things about him so I was definitely looking forward to seeing to Another Year. It didn't hurt that the film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay Award at this year's Oscars. What did I think of the film? See my full review after the jump.
Director: Mike Leigh. Screenplay: Mike Leigh. Producer: Georgina Lowe. Executive Producers: Gail Egan and Tessa Ross. Cinematographer: Dick Pope. Editor: Jon Gregory. Score: Gary Yershon. Distributor: Focus Features. Starring: Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville and Ruth Sheen. Running Time: 129 Minutes.
Mike Leigh's Another Year opens like an Agatha Christie whodunit but instead of trying to figure out who the killer is, you have to deduce which, if not all, of the characters in the opening vignette the story will revolve around. This has the effect of grabbing and holding your full undivided attention from the start right up to the end credits. Even after the end you are left wondering what happened to a certain character that was introduced in the beginning of the film who turns out to not be a major character and therefore her story is never fully explored, never mind resolved. In fairness though none of the characters' story arcs play out in the classic three act linear structure. With this film being shot in the realist style akin to Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D, we are instead offered just a glimpse of a mostly uneventful year in the life of a middle-class family in London and it's sometimes strained relations with friends and relatives. As the film's title not so subtly suggests, this is but Another Year in the family's life.
Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen are Tom and Gerri - yes, even they find it funny - the aforementioned middle class couple who live with their 30 year old son Joe (Oliver Maltman) in a modest but comfortable London home. The film follows them through the course of one year, from spring to winter, as they cope with various everyday issues that you'd expect people to deal with in real life, not in a motion picture film.
Tom and Gerri are slightly concerned by the fact that their son Joe at his age is yet to have a serious girlfriend that they've been introduced to, let alone a wife.
On the other hand, Gerri's longtime friend and colleague Mary (Lesley Manville) is a divorcee who after many years still hasn't found another partner and has become a self-pitying, lonely old woman.
There are more situations throughout the year involving other friends and relatives which I can't discuss without being spoilerish but, suffice it to say, they are portrayed with a brutal honesty that I haven't witnessed in quite some time. In the end it is this level of realism that I found to be most refreshing about the film. Mike Leigh has done an exceptional job of making an interesting film out of even the most mundane aspects of life. He shows us that there is beauty in the most in the most dull situations and, most importantly, that life is best spent with the people you love the most.
Verdict: A graceful little film about the pleasures and sorrows of relationships, be they between family, friends or lovers. It is quite simply a pleasure to behold.
Another Year is available now on DVD.