DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
ANOTHER YEAR (director/writer: Mike Leigh; cinematographer: Dick Pope; editor: Jon Gregory; music: Gary Yershon; cast: Ruth Sheen (Gerri), Jim Broadbent (Tom), Lesley Manville (Mary), Peter Wight (Ken), David Bradley (Ronnie), Oliver Maltman (Joe), Imelda Staunton (Janet), Phil Davis (Jack), Martin Savage (Carl), Stuart McQuarrie (Tom's Colleague), Katie (Karina Fernandez), Michele Austin (Tanya); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Georgina Lowe; Sony Pictures Classics; 2010-UK)

 
"Endearing family drama, offering generous dollops of Ozu-like wisdom for dealing with the mundane."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Veteran English filmmaker Mike Leigh ("Vera Drake"/"Topsy-Turvy"/"Secrets & Lies") is at the top of his game in this endearing family drama, offering generous dollops of Ozu-like wisdom for dealing with the mundane. It tells of the lives of ordinary folks, who go through a year of handling minor events in their lives and surviving through another year despite some setbacks. Another Year is set in the spring and its fourth chapter ends the film in winter, where there's still a chance for even the most depressed characters to find happiness if they can sort things out either by themselves, through friends or by seeking professional help. There's no discernible plot or particular message, but as usual in a Leigh film there's a complex and rich character study, the acting is excellent and the viewer is treated to a realistic adult film that respects the viewer's ability to figure things out themselves without being unduly coaxed. That it plays things straightforward without any twists, works well for this heartwarming and poignant film--one that I was most impressed with for its intelligence and moving presentation of all its characters; especially, the flawed ones, who Thoreau recognized for "living lives of quiet desperation."

Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and Tom (Jim Broadbent) are a happy and contented sixtysomething married couple, who own a comfortable private house in the suburbs of London and have good careers that give them satisfaction and financial security. She's a caring NHS medical counselor and he's an engineer geologist, for a private concern. Their main concern is that their 30-year-old independent-minded son Joe (Oliver Maltman) is not married and that they wish to be grandparents. He visits often, but refuses to say much about his personal life except that his friends are all getting married and that has him a little taken aback. The ideal social-able couple generously share their warmth with others, including Gerri's hapless fortysomething coworker office secretary Mary (Lesley Manville). The nervous wreck breathes out bad vibes and even manages to get on the gentle Gerri's nerves when she pursues her son even though her attentions are not welcomed by him. Another loser is an old friend of Tom's, from his birthplace up North, named Ken (Peter Wight), a guy with a good heart who drinks heavily and has become pathetically obese and miserable because he just let himself go and has become so unattractive and lonely. Ken still lives up North, and visits London only during the summer. When Ken tries to come on to Mary, she makes faces and rejects him cruelly.

Most of the film covers the desperate Mary and how she continues to make wrong life decisions, and tries to drown her sorrows with booze and unrealistic ways to find happiness. The complacent couple offers the troubled souls their ear, their emotional support and sound advice, but when alone are dismissive of the lost souls for letting themselves become such miserable company and unable to make good decisions to get out of their rut.

The pic is filled with everyday resignation for those unable to find happiness. Meanwhile the stable loving couple and later their son, who finds the perfect mate in outgoing occupational therapist Katie (Karina Fernandez), have found the secret to a good life is inward peace, caring about others and the ability to find love with a soulmate. For others not as fortunate, Gerri can only comment: ‘Life’s not always kind, is it?’. 

REVIEWED ON 3/6/2011       GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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