Review by Jack Foley
MIKE Leigh’s Another Year offers a thought provoking examination of old age that’s by turns amusing, poignant and powerful… As well as undeniably Mike Leigh.
At first, the director’s observational style would seem to make for a slight, engaging affair. But as subtle comedy gives way to sadness and even anger, Leigh once again proves his worth at generating moving drama from everyday scenarios.
Another Year unfolds over four seasons in the lives of Tom (Jim Broadbent), a geologist, and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a counsellor, an amiable, kind-hearted couple who enjoy pottering about the allotment and throwing dinners for friends.
Central to their genial existence is their amicable son (Oliver Maltman) and Mary (Lesley Manville), a work colleague who drinks too much to mask her lonely desperation.
There’s also Ken (Peter Wright), a fed up friend of Tom’s, who is also battling depression and self despondency and Tom’s brother. All have key parts to play in the events that shape the year that ensues.
As ever with Leigh’s work, events take place at a leisurely pace that allows the actors to fully inhabit their roles so that you sometimes feel you’re eavesdropping on real life unfolding.
This can lend the film a soapy, small screen feel but one that can be indulged on the big screen thanks to the quality of the performances and the subtle shifts in season that are marked by Dick Pope’s appealing cinematography.
Leigh also handles the film’s big themes well, suggesting that while growing old is never easy, it can be as fun (for some) as it is painful for others.
Hence, Tom and Gerri are a reassuring central presence and the type of elderly couple we’d all like to know and aspire to become if we reach their point in life. They lend the film it’s optimism, it’s good humour and it’s heart and soul.
But they’re not oblivios to the suffering of those around them and it’s through their eyes that we witness the slow unravelling of Manville’s unhinged Mary (impeccably played with just the right mix of humour, irritation and anguish), as well as the sad decline of Ken (again, brilliantly portrayed by Wright).
But then Leigh’s films seldom disappoint on an emotional front even if the downbeat nature of some of his work makes him an acquired taste among viewers.
Another Year is, however, as amusing and warm as it is emotionally complex and resonant, dealing with old age in a sensitive but never sugar coated fashion.
It’s also another of his more recent works (like Vera Drake, whose star Imelda Staunton cameos here) that’s destined to get even better with age as more and more people grow into it.
Running time: 2hrs 9mins
UK DVD Release Date: February 28, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Jim Broadbent interview
- Ruth Sheen interview
- Mike Leigh interview
- Another Year Photo Gallery
- Another Year UK Premiere Photo Gallery