Every year, action-packed adventures and over-the-top 3D explosions engulf theater screens nationwide, providing audiences with mind-numbing escapism at its complete worst. Money is repeatedly thrown at the next sequel, remake, and derivative spawn, sinking ever deeper into a rut of unoriginality. Sadly enough, this happens every year. However, every so often, if we’re lucky, Mike Leigh makes a film and allows us to appreciate life and the art of storytelling once more. And while this doesn’t occur as often as I’d like, 2010 proved to be just so lucky; and we got Another Year.
Another Year introduces us to two people in love. They’ve been that way for a long time, and will probably be that way for years to come. Tom and Gerri are their names. Tending to their garden every season, happily married, and frequently surrounded by family and friends, for better or worse. One of these friends is Mary, who quickly becomes a focal point of the film. Trying to find her way, Mary is single, aging, a bit of an alcoholic, and often looking to Tom and Gerri to help suppress her depression. Before long, we’re taken on a year round trip in the lives of these characters, venturing season to season and given a glimspe of humanity and sympathy in a way that only Mike Leigh can portray.
The film feels alive. It breathes. It has characters you love, characters you empathize with, charcters well within the realm of believability. This is a reminiscent characteristic of many Mike Leigh films. It’s also what make his pictures so pleasing. Another Year is about the people, about their emotions. It’s humane without ever being boring. It’s incidental without ever being aimless. It’s life and we’re glad to be living it, no matter how outrageous or lonely it can be.
The Oscar nominated script is amongst Mike Leigh’s best works. The performances aren’t forced, they’re natural and entertaining. Regular collaborators of Mike Leigh films, such as Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, and Peter Wight pop up left and right, while Lesley Manville steals the spotlight in her turn as Mary. Leigh is best known for his unique writing style, working one-on-one with every actor and evolving each individual character before ever touching pen to paper. It’s a technique that’s worked for decades, and will hopefully continue to work for years to come.
Another Year had a short run at Cedar Lee earlier this year, but if you missed that, you can pick it up this Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray. This film also nabbed a slot on my Best O’ 2010 list, click the link to see where it placed…