CANNES: Director Mike Leigh's reflection on the passage of time, ageing, loneliness, and life will stand as a work alongside his best films such as Vera Drake and Secrets and Lies as a work that is both profound, and, well, ordinary.
The story follows the lives of four Londoners in their fifties. Tom, a geologist, played by Jim Broadbent, his wife Gerri, a counselor player by Ruth Sheen and two of their friends, Mary, one of Gerri's colleagues, played by Leslie Manville and Tom's friend, Ken Wright. Leigh uses improvisation sessions to prepare both himself and his actors in all his films and he has drawn brilliant performances from this ensemble which is one of his trademarks as a director.
The film is divided into four sections: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Each has its events that make up an ordinary suburban life and the happily married, Tom and Gerri, try to help their less satisfied friends Mary and Ken as both of them realize that life has somehow passed them by.
Mary, who is single and desperately tries unsuccessfully, to attract younger men with flashy clothes and inappropriate behaviour. She is a reflection of the sad fact that women's equality is still a long way off from reality as a woman chasing after younger men is still a sad and desperate sight in society while a man the same age chasing younger women is not only more likely to succeed but is often applauded by society as having won some sort of prize.
Mary comes to dinner at Tom and Gerri's and gets drunk. Her loneliness spills out and Manville's performance in this scene filled with anxiety and pain should win her many awards in the coming year. In his own way, Ken, is equally needy emotionally, compensating by eating, drinking and smoking too much. Tom and Gerri are sympathetic to their friends but ultimately there is little they can do to help them.
Life passes and the film chronicles a birth, a death and funeral and Leigh's message is that there is nothing much to do but negotiate the passing of time with good cheer. DOP Dick Pope, a Leigh regular, gives the film the right mood, while most of the actors are also Leigh regulars and work together seamlessly. Leigh leaves us with little doubt that he identifies with his characters and this is a mature work by a consummate artist. Nothing much happens in this film and yet everything happens. It's a bleak look not only at British life but at everyone's life as we age and Leigh is telling us there are no sudden and dramatic moments of dramatic revelation to give us a Hollywood ending. Life just goes on.
Another Year Directed by Mike LEIGH
Cast: David BRADLEY - Ronnie
Jim BROADBENT - Tom
Karina FERNANDEZ - Katie
Oliver MALTMAN - Joe
Lesley MANVILLE - Mary
Ruth SHEEN - Gerri
Imelda STAUNTON - Janet
Peter WIGHT - Ken