A married couple who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded over the course of the four seasons of one average year by friends, colleagues, and family who all seem to suffer some degree of unhappiness.
ANOTHER YEAR is the latest movie from veteran British filmmaker Mike Leigh. He is known for making serious dramas often of great emotional intensity. His SECRETS AND LIES (1996) and NAKED (1993) brought him international attention among critics and in filmmaking circles. He is known to elicit strong performances from his actors and often finds storylines through an intense workshopping process with those actors. Many of his films are therefore not traditionally plotted and have a naturalistic or “slice of life” feel about them.
ANOTHER YEAR is definitely a slice of life movie. Film critics in the US and the UK have already hailed this as one of Leigh’s best. The movie has excellent performances and acutely observed moments of human interaction. I would recommend this to fans of Leigh’s work. Book a ticket and read no further. The film is the work of a confident director who absolutely knows what he wants and achieves it.
If like me, you are not a Leigh fan, then this movie may not be for you. I felt frustrated by the slice of life approach, which is not my favourite style of storytelling (e.g. Nicole Holofcener’s PLEASE GIVE). I didn’t find the central couple, Tom and Gerri, played by Broadbent and Sheen engaging. They are the emotional ballast and moral centre of the film and yet as the seasons passed, I found them dull and a bit smug. If they were my next-door neighbours, they would be the sort of people I would nod a good morning to, but dread ever having a conversation with. The character of their thirty-year-old son Joe (Maltman), I found exceedingly dull and self-satisfied.
Having said this, the damaged and unhappy characters that pass into Tom and Gerri’s lives are naturally more interesting and are as well-conceived and performed as one would expect from a Mike Leigh film. Mary (Manville) is a work colleague of Gerri’s, she is a woman in her 40s who feels she has missed out on finding her life partner or perhaps she would call him “The One”. She is always emotionally unbalanced, drinks too much and has no idea of how to find happiness. As a friend she would tax you just as she strains the patience of Tom and Gerri, however Mary offers the audience a character to pin its hopes on.
Tom, Gerri and Joe are so damned balanced, that they don’t require our hopes or best wishes. They need nothing from us except a civil “Good evening” when our paths cross on bin night.
ANOTHER YEAR is screening now in Perth cinemas. I rated it a 3/5.