Movie Review: Another Year

You’ve heard it’s good. You go see it. You sit there and watch it wondering at times what you’re looking at. There are no car chases scenes, no fight sequences, really no action at all. Then it hits you. This is pure unadulterated character study. What’s meaningful is the intonation of the phrase, the raised eyebrow and sometimes just the silence. This isn’t a movie; this is real life.
The story centers on a couple, Tom and Gerri and yes, somebody does make a joke about their names. This couple exemplify everything anyone would strive for: stability, happiness, uneventful. However, as one other reviewer pointed out, happily married couples may be heart-warming but they don’t necessarily make for great drama. The film’s author has dealt with this little issue by throwing into the mix a series of friends and relatives who do provide the crisis of the film. In fact, while the world spirals somewhat out of control around them, Tom and Gerri continue their blissful relationship as they seem to have always done and seem to always will.

Broken into the four seasons, the film follows a year in the life of the protagonists. While our central couple are terrific, their friends bring an explosion of off-beat, off-colour and sometimes outright lunacy to the situation. And here lunacy doesn’t necessarily mean funny. Our central couple may be stability personified but their friends who are well past the midway point in their lives are showing all the flaws of those who have not quite measured up to dealing with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. They may merit a big L on their foreheads.

The cast is superb: Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Peter Wright, etc. I’m sure that many of us will not necessarily recognise the names of these British actors. Leslie Manville as Mary I thought was great even though I recognised the character she was playing as the insecure, slightly bonkers over-the-hill beauty as being a bit of a pain. By the end of the film, I was finding Mary just a tad annoying. Just an FYI that Jim Broadbent played in the Harry Potter films. Yes, you don’t recognise his name but you will certainly recognise his face.

The film was written and directed by Mike Leigh who has been around writing and directing forever but whose most recent work I’ve had the opportunity to see was the 2008 film Happy-Go-lucky, a sparkling romp of humour. I go down the list of works in which this gentleman has been involved and see accolade after accolade. This name is associated with quality and now I know why.

Final Word
An excellent film, a wonderful cast, great ensemble work. But, this is a character study; this is slow; this is subtle. The contrast between the solid marriage of Tom and Gerri with the terrifying middle-age lives of their friends is sharp and sometimes cutting. It is however that contrast which gives the film its bite. As Samuel Beckett said in Endgame, Nothing is funnier than unhappiness. Yes and nothing is more fascinating.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle.

References

Rotten Tomatoes: Another Year: 91%

Wikipedia: Another Year
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilv0aVRJPps

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