Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Ok, so the other night I watched Mike Leigh's new film Another Year.  Leigh is known for starting without a script, but with a premise that is flushed out and comes to live through improvisation.  His movies Naked and Secret & Lies show how when working with the right combination of story and talent, the outcome can be a very real, honest, and at times disturbing film.  Another Year centers around a families journey through the seasons in a year.  Their careers, friends, and daily existence all play roles within this film.  At the center is this family, or more accurately, the mother, played by Ruth Sheen, who was also in Secrets & Lies and Vera Drake.  Leigh likes to work with the same actors on his projects.  Sheen plays Gerri, a councilor, who on a lucky day, spends her spare time with her geologist husband Tom, played by Jim Broadbent, digging in their impressive garden.  Their son makes a number of appearances, as an open minded and caring son, and it is this family unit that serves as an anchor for those around them.  As Gerri's friend Mary, played by Lesley Manville, spirals deeper and deeper into her anxieties and depression, she goes to Gerri's house for solace.  She drinks their wine, hits on their son, and uses her friendship with Gerri as therapy.  As Mary's life and mental health spiral out of control; sadness, desperation, loneliness, and isolation over take her.  When Gerri's son Joe brings home his girlfriend for a visit, Mary makes it very well known the girlfriend isn't welcome.  When Tom's friend, Ken, comes for a visit, the same sort of relationship dynamics occur, his depression and loneliness are feed with food and alcohol, and he too, though not as purposeful, uses his friendship with Tom and Gerri to work through his demons.  Unsuccessfully all the same, because what Mary and Ken both need is companionship.  Ken wants Mary, Mary is disgusted by him, although she is worse off than he.  Overweight, alcoholic, and lonely, Ken is still friendly and aware of those around him.  Mary's bipolar tendencies keep her from seeing any other perspective than her own.  In the end, the family remains a beacon for those around them, shining a light through the shroud of loneliness that clings to the other characters.  If you like Mike Leigh's other films, you'll like this one too, and if you in are sick of the non-reality of Hollywood, this is a refreshing film!

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