Tuesday, February 15, 2011

film review: Another Year by Mike Leigh

Another Year
The backstory: Nominated for Best Original Screenplay at this year's Oscars, as well as two BAFTAs: Outstanding British film and Best Supporting Actress, Lesley Manville (it won neither.)

The basics: Another Year is the story of Tom and Gerri, a late middle-aged couple who remain happily married. Despite their happiness, no one else around them seems to share it. Their son Joe is the closest to happiness at the beginning of the film, but he longs for a relationship. In the unhappy camp are Mary, a co-worker of Gerri's, and Ken, an old friend of Joe's, both of whom drink to excess whenever they're on screen.

My thoughts: The film is broken into four seasons in a seemingly typical year of Tom and Gerri's life. The first three seasons seem like vignettes. The script is dynamic, the characters are well-developed, and the acting is superb. There's little to no plot to speak of, but the film moves along at a lovely pace. I was riveted by the performances. Lesley Manville was a phenomenal mix of flighty and vulnerable while trying to find strength.

I adored the first three parts of this film, but when the season turned to winter, the film turned cold with it. It was visually and emotionally jarring, but it became too dreary for me. When the film ended, I found it thoroughly depressing. Interestingly, my reaction to Another Year was quite similar to Mr. Nomadreader's reaction to Blue Valentine. I jinxed myself by declaring films don't depress me if they also have beauty of performance, direction or script. I was so wrong. When I got home from the film, I could do nothing but go to sleep.

Despite my uneven reaction to the film, it is a testament to both the spectacular performances and the constant close-ups of the actors' faces that the film affected me so deeply emotionally. The film contains several vulnerable and raw performances, and I'm surprised Helena Bonham Carter beat out Lesley Manville for the BAFTA.

The verdict: Although brilliantly acted and delightful for the first three quarters of the film, the winter vignette is so stark, depressing and without emotional redemption it hampered my enjoyment of the film as a whole. In some ways, it's a brilliant, and it's certainly worth seeing, but I wish I were in bed with stuffed animals to snuggle once the credits rolled.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 129 minutes
Release date: It's in these theaters now, and you may pre-order the dvd.
Source: I paid to see it at the Spectrum Theatres

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  1. It doesn't sound like this would be a movie that I would enjoy very much, but I did want to mention that after reading your excellent review, my husband and I went out and saw Black Swan. It was a great movie, but so disturbing! Both the lead actresses got their roles down perfectly! Glad I got the chance to see it before it left theaters!

  2. My brother has been trying to get me to watch this film since it came out. I have really been wating to as well, and have made plans to on a few occasions (but they have been thwarted each time). I absolutely want to see it still... but am glad to be prepared for the Winter beforehand.

    Is it weird that the characters are Tom and Geri? Am I the only one who noticed that?

  3. Well, darling. At least I know that your heart isn't made of stone! I found it hard to believe that no film would crack through that beautiful porcelain shell of yours! xoxo

  4. I really enjoyed this film. It is a very British film, and is nowhere near as depressing as most films Mike Leigh makes.

  5. Just watched it with another single girlfriend. We both left the experience terrified that we would become Marys and both set our glasses of wine down about halfway through the movie, haha!


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