film review: Another Year by Mike Leigh
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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