Title: Another Year
Director: Mike Leigh
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Imelda Staunton.
Release Date: November 5th
Heralded by some critics as being the best film at this year’s 2010 Cannes film festival, Another Year lives up to the hype. Oscar-nominated and BAFTA award-winning director and screenwriter Mike Leigh beautifully captures the emotive essence of a particular time frame in human history.
Manchester-born Leigh creates an immensely gripping portrayal of tragic drama, which revolves around the blissfully happy life of husband and wife couple Tom and Gerri (yes, the obvious pun is used at some stage in the film). The film largely focuses on the middle-aged couple – convincingly portrayed by Jim Broadbent and the eminently loveable Ruth Sheen. With their solid relationship built on trust and love of family, they effortlessly portray the contented couple.
The rich and witty dialogue, emanating mostly from the couple, serves as an antidote to the many frustrations, grim dispositions and general unhappiness of their fellow friends and family. Moreover, the warmth of Tom and Gerri’s relationship also acts as a perfect contrast to the cold and depressed lives of the supporting characters.
The film is divided into chapters based on the four seasons and the inevitable passage of another year. Leigh structures his film around these series of encounters with friends and family members who drop by, occupying centre stage as they unload their problems and then exit, only to have their stories continue as the film moves into another season.
There is a sense of familiarity permeating the film, as its themes are similar to those of Leigh’s other works (most notably his 2004 film Vera Drake). Another Year deals with an array of complex issues and is as cerebral a film that one would expect from Leigh, though the film’s laudable intelligence levels do not come at the expense of entertainment value.
The music, arranged by Gary Yershon, provides the perfect backdrop throughout the film. It is particularly key in certain scenes where the orchestral chords enrich the emotions and add to the intensity of the drama in the film.
Ultimately, the film is a deeply absorbing look at a couple that seem to have gotten it right and a bunch of people who haven’t. The film demonstrates, time and again, an ability to break from the clichés of traditional cinematic narratives, enabling it to be more meaningful and visually interesting than a dozen predictable blockbusters put together.
In a nutshell: Provides a level of verisimilitude befitting of the very best art-house cinema.
– Laura Brennan