Celebrated British film-maker Mike Leigh returns with ‘Another Year’ an honest cinematic portrait of a British Family over the course of a year. Tom (Jim Broadbet) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) play a genuinely happily married husband and wife edging towards retirement. The ensemble cast is rounded out by son Joe (Oliver Maltman) a single lawyer, Mary (Lesley Manville) an lonely divorcee, Ken (Peter Wight)an unhappy old friend from home and Ronnie (David Bradley) Tom’s older, introverted grieving brother. The 67 year old’s new work here is familiar and highlights his consistency in focusing attention on tone, theme and concentrating on the film being driven by characters more than narrative.
The two main characters to which the story unfolds around is a very satisfied happy married couple which could have led to an extremely boring central theme for a feature length film. Initially it even felt unrealistic, something of fantasy growing old gracefully, still in love with your wife or husband in suburbia. However Jim Broadbet and Ruth Sheen are well cast and bring a important centre point of stability, playing the role of parent’s to more characters than just their own son.
Joe is an activist lawyer who feels the pressure and need to settle down as his friends begin to pair off and marry and his mother quizzes his relationship status at every visit in hope. Ken is a man who struggles to find his place and purpose in the world after the death of his wife. His visits to Tom and Gerri give him something to look forward to but also bring about desire for companionship. Whilst Joe politely and rather amused rebuffs any advances from Mary, Ken throws himself at her literally during one point in the film. The jewel of the film is Lesley Manville as Mary. She is a near alcoholic who in the aftermath of her divorce clings to Tom and Gerri’s world. Manville provides strong comical relief and is charismatic as Mary despite her character being the most needy and socially inept in the film. She also brings a uncomfortable awkward sense of intense loneliness, insecurity and inner turmoil.
As expected from Leigh’s previous body of work, the script seems to have been thorn out of heavy group development with the actors and seeing where their individual abilities strength lie and how they compliment each other on screen. No doubt Mary could be annoying and irritating in anyone else’s hands but in Manville’s she is lovable and lost. The final moments are somewhat bleak, there is no strong resolution for Mary as viewers say goodbye to her but it feels honest.
Von Von Lamunu