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Another Year - Blu-ray Movie Review

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Another Year - Movie Review

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5 Stars

A Mike Leigh film: people; situations; reactions; misery as a by-product of happiness. In examining his entire scope of work, from 1988’s emotion-packed High Hopes to the latest little unassuming masterpiece, Another Year, it becomes crystal clear that the British filmmaker has an incredibly captivating way of turning the least significant of human interactions into a momentous movie event.

This time (his 19th film), it’s about a married, middle-aged couple, Tom and Gerry, (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) who are now enjoying their childless, cozy, London home, having overcome most of life’s most demanding traumas and challenges. He’s a government geologist, she, a medical clinic counselor. Their only excitement comes from tending to their co-op garden and the frequent visits from their 30-year-old single son, Joe (Oliver Maltman).

But Tom and Gerri don’t need much excitement. See, they have each other. They enjoy the unlikely gratification of contentment. And Leigh’s camera loves exploring their confined happiness. He somehow manages to mine captivating sequences from their ordinary, everyday activities. Whether from an extended shot of the couple sipping tea while holding hands in a tiny wooden shed waiting out a brief spring shower, or a comfy scene of the two tottering about their house, tending to daily chores, we’re fascinated.

As the title suggests, the film courses through four seasons of a single year in Tom and Gerri’s life, beginning in the early spring with a yellow and green-tinted lens, to the whited-out, somewhat bleached depiction of winter. In between, we’re taken on an expressive exploration of the idea of happiness and its colorful effect on regular people.

Revolving around the contented couple is a constellation of friends, co-workers and relatives who come and go as if by the change of the seasons. The principal of these flitterers is the flighty Mary (Leslie Manville), a single woman approaching middle age yet clinging to her youth as hard as she does a bottle of wine. She clearly has the hots for the much younger Joe, but he casually and politely deflects her advances. For many viewers, Mary may be a bit much. Her misery-loves-company affectations and desperate need for approval come off as a bit strong initially, but she’ll grow on you, even if she’s the kind of person you’d go out of your way to avoid in real life. Manville gives an acting clinic here, baring the humiliated soul of her aging Mary while also convincing us she’s as real a person as we’d ever meet.

Then there’s Ken (Peter Wright), an old college mate of Tom, whom we meet in the summer. He’s another middle-aged mess who knows his way around the dinner table as well as he does a can of beer. When not tearfully dwelling on the missed opportunities of his past, he’s hitting on Mary, despite her disgusted rejections.

Winter brings not only happiness to Joe in the person of perky girlfriend Katy (Karina Fernandez), but heartache for Tom as well, involving his brother Ronnie (David Bradley) and his son Carl (Martin Savage). A trip up to Darby for a quick visit turns near calamitous as we learn that closeness to relatives is inversely proportional to proximity.

Downbeat, slow, calculated and muted, Leigh’s slice-of-life film often just lies there, studying a facial wrinkle, an empty wine glass, or a ripened fruit in the garden. But the linger displays a vividly intelligent knowledge of filmmaking. He points the camera, yells “action” and lets his tender but pointed script (recently nominated for an Academy Award) go to work, spinning its tale of happiness, companionship, and the connection between the two. He knows the strongest impact will come from his full-bodied characters and the extremely talented stable of actors. He never answers the questions he raises about human behavior, preferring instead for viewers to pull from their own experience to decide if we, as humans, need others to experience happiness, or does loneliness just make us an absurdly funny mess? You decide.

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{2jtab: Film Info}

Another Year - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language.
Director
: Mike Leigh
Writer
: Mike Leigh
Cast:
Jim Broadbent; Leslie Manville; Ruth Sheen; Imelda Staunton
Genre
: Drama
Memorable Movie Quote:
"You can't go around with a big sign saying don't fall in love with me I'm married."
Distributor:
Sony Pictures Classics
Official Site:
www.sonyclassics.com/anotheryear
Release Date: January 28, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Plot Synopsis: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Family and friendship. Love and warmth. Joy and sadness. Hope and despair. Companionship. Loneliness. A birth. A death. Time passes...

In the Spring, happily married Gerri, a medical counselor, and Tom, a geologist, tend their allotment. They entertain Gerri?s lonely work colleague Mary, who gets very drunk, and bemoans her disastrous love life. Gerri and Tom enjoy a warm relationship with their community lawyer son Joe, aged 30, who reports that although his friends are getting married, he is still without a partner.

In the Summer, Ken comes down to London to spend a weekend with Gerri and Tom. Ken works in a government employment office in Hull, and is Tom?s boyhood friend from their native Derby. He gets very drunk, and bemoans his tragic, lonely life. The next day, while Gerri celebrates the sunshine at the allotment, Tom, Ken, Joe and a neighbor enjoy a game of golf. A barbeque party follows. Mary arrives late and flustered in her newly-acquired secondhand car. She is frosty towards an innocently amorous Ken, and flirtatious in an urgent and serious way towards Joe, her junior by a generation.

In the Autumn, Gerri and Tom return home from the allotment to enjoy a pleasant surprise from Joe. He has hidden his new partner Katie behind a door. Katie is an occupational therapist, and Gerri and Tom like her immediately. But Mary, who has already been invited to tea, is instantly jealous and hostile towards Katie, and behaves very rudely. Although they all sympathize with her car troubles, Mary?s behavior towards Katie leaves a bad odor with the good-natured Gerri and Tom.

In the Winter, Gerri, Tom and Joe drive up to Derby for the funeral of the wife of Tom?s elder brother, Ronnie. Ronnie?s aggressive, estranged son Carl arrives late at the crematorium. Back at Ronnie?s house, Carl is confrontational with his father, and with Tom and Joe; he causes other mourners to leave suddenly, and then stomps off in a rage. Gerri and Tom bring Ronnie back to London. Whilst they are at the allotment, Mary
shows up at the house unannounced, and in a fraught state. She drinks tea and smokes cigarettes with a bemused Ronnie. On their return, Gerri and Tom are far from pleased to see Mary, especially as Joe is due to arrive with Katie for a family dinner. But after Mary has broken down apologetically, Gerri invites her to stay, albeit reluctantly. At the dinner table, while Gerri and Tom reminisce about the round-the-world backpacking days of their youth, and Katie and Joe look forward to their impending trip to Paris, Ronnie quietly enjoys his beer and his dinner and Mary faces the sad emptiness of her passing life.

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