The Atlantic Film Festival 2010: Another Year

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Another Year

Directed by Mike Leigh

Another Year is Mike Leigh’s follow-up to 2008’s Happy-Go-Lucky. Though the film has a completely different cast of characters and for the most part different casts altogether (save for Oliver Maltman, who appears in both), there are a lot of themes that are explored in both of Leigh’s movies.

The film shows us one year in the life of Tom and Gerri, played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, respectively. They are a happily married couple and have been so for what must be more than 30 years. What we see throughout the film are short vignettes featuring some of their friends and family as they come in and out of Tom and Gerri’s life. All of these friends are sad and lonely to some extent and they come to Tom and Gerri for guidance as well as just friendship and warmth.

The film’s biggest focus is on the couple’s relationship with Mary, played wonderfully by Lesley Manville. Mary, who has worked with Gerri for 20 years, is reaching middle age and finding it hard to cope without a man or children, and thus seeks refuge in alcohol and her friends and their families. Many of her scenes are raw and even uncomfortably intense.

This movie is similar to Happy-Go-Lucky in that both films are character studies focusing on individuals that to everyone else appear to be perfectly happy with their lives and friendly to an almost abnormal extent. Both Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky and Tom and Gerri in Another Year are extremely loving, almost to a fault sometimes. However, as we eventually learn, in both cases the characters do have limits to their happy attitudes, knowing when a situation demands a tougher demeanor.

While not quite as dynamic and whimsical as Happy-Go-Lucky, Another Year is nonetheless a worthwhile work by Leigh. Quiet and often somewhat meandering, it doesn’t strive to give the answers to anyone’s loneliness and heartache but rather presents them as realities of everyday life. On top of it all, this film features a delightful cast. The opening sequence, involving Imelda Staunton, features some of the most amazing and heart breaking acting I have seen recently.

Laura Holtebrink

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