Written & Directed by Mike Leigh
Another Year is a foreign film. Foreign in that it is from another country, England, and foreign in that everything about it is foreign to me. To start it is directed by reputable director Mike Leigh. While I have seen his latest effort before this, Happy-Go-Lucky, I hardly qualify myself as knowing the man’s abilities. And add to that all of the wonderful British actors which star in the film. Sure, I may claim to be a Jim Broadbent fan, but apart from two or three small roles, I honestly have not seen the his work. And what about the plot, I mean it is all about old people, right? So what do I care about this movie?
Well, it may be about old people in the golden years of their lives, but it still has relevancy, if only in that it is a well made film. Tom (Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) are very happily married and seem to have made the perfect connection into the perfect life together in London. They love each other immensely, have a handsome son, and great friends. But what about those friends? Well the film is told through the eyes of Tom and Gerri, but it is the visits of these friends that tells the real tale. They meet with Mary (Lesley Manville) and Ken (Peter Wight) amongst others.
What drives this film is the dialogue and the fantastic screenplay by Mike Leigh. When one takes a step back, you would see that the film is nothing but characters talking. But that is the beauty of the film. It may not feature action or fighting matches or anything else, but it is charged with extremely real and emotional encounters and glances and everything else subtle. The only thing that is not subtle in this film is the performance of Lesley Manville, but I mean that in a good way. Manville’s performance as depressed, aging Mary is heartbreaking. But I really loved Broadbent and Sheen as the blissful couple having to deal with their unsatisfied friends.
Old age, God willing, will meet each and every one of us. Only the most fortunate will meet it like Tom and Gerri. Most of us, in this day and age, will more likely meet it with the same discontent and depression that their friends do. Mike Leigh, and his cast of actors, achieves an intimate and extremely beautiful portrait of the elderly, and what it means to truly be happy in this life. We all would be fortunate to even know people like Tom and Gerri. We would be even more fulfilled if we lived lives such as theirs, but the true point is, as Gerri says, “Life’s not always kind, is it?”