Mike Leigh regulars, Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, and Lesley Manville are the featured stars in the ensemble piece, Another Year. The story centers around Tom and Gerri (Broadbent and Sheen), a contented middle aged couple, their lonely, divorced friend, Mary (Manville), and their son Jack (Oliver Maltman). We follow these characters over the course of a year, watching the seasonal canvass change as Tom and Gerri cultivate their communal garden and welcome others into the warmth of their home.
Lesley Manville’s performance is so heartbreakingly spot on, you will feel embarrassed and protective of her, even as you laugh at her antics. Manville’s character, Mary, a woman in her fifties whose It Girl days have long passed, desperately wants to belong to Tom and Gerri’s home, so much so that she flirts inappropriately with Jack, whom she has known since he was ten (he’s now 30). But who wouldn’t want to sit at Tom and Gerri’s kitchen table with Tom at the stove and Gerri making a cuppa? They are that one couple that we all know who just seem to have the perfect familial chemistry. A couple who are not without joys or sorrows, but whom are too nice to incur our all out jealously, but of whom we can’t help but feel a twinge of envy. That’s why we can’t blame Mary completely for her feelings because we would have them too. So, when she goes too far we feel her pain and devastation, at the same time hoping that we would have the sense not to cross the barriers that her loneliness drives her to breach.
For all its serious emotions, Another Year is not entirely filled with despair. It’s this subtle balance of emotion that makes the film so exquisite. Mike Leigh continues to demonstrate that he is an exceptional craftsman when it comes to composing and directing improvised films that show the reality of every day life. You know that feeling you get when you pass a house and wonder what the people inside are like? Mike Leigh answers these questions brilliantly by choosing talented actors, setting them up in these "houses", and letting them say and do things that seem real. In actuality, these scenes are directed by a master who knows how to tell a good story, and who knows what other elements to bring to his screen fictions. For example, the beautiful score that supports rather than intrudes, and the lighting that enhances rather than infringes. For all of these reasons, I wish that you will give this film a chance and that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences will also remember it at Oscar time.
Mike Leigh has received four Academy Award nominations for original screenplay (Happy-Go-Lucky, Vera Drake, Topsy-Turvy and Secrets & Lies) and two for directing (Vera Drake and Secrets & Lies).
Released January 14th (Mongrel Media)
Screens at Varsity Cinemas and Yonge-Sheppard
Mary (Lesley Manville). Photo by Simon Mein (c) Thin Man Films Ltd., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Director Mike Leigh. Photo by Simon Mein (c) Thin Man Films Ltd., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.