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Intense film peers into unstable lives
THE BIG SCREEN
Intense: Lesley Manville stars in Another Year, written and
directed by Mike Leigh.
Old age is something that
appears inevitably, taps
you on the shoulder and
says, ''I'm here.''
Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri
(Ruth Sheen), an elderly couple,
are enjoying their grey years by
tending their allotted vegetable
patch in a community garden and
sharing occasions with their friends
and family over conversation and
bottles of wine -- many bottles of
Was there a scene in the film that
didn't have someone with an
alcoholic drink in his or her hands?
Oh, yes, there were some scenes
with cups of tea.
Rather than a film classification
like M or MA, Another Year should
come with a percentage alcohol
While Tom and Gerri (yes, the
joke about their connection with
the cartoon characters is made)
are unruffled and supportive and,
perhaps, the only grounded peo-
ple in the movie, their family and
friends are navigating bleak
clouds that they call their lives,
which have no silver or any other
kind of lining.
Mary's unhappiness (a superb
performance from Lesley Manvil-
le) borders on total despair, yet
she constantly seeks emotional
crumbs from anyone in an attempt
to add substance to her life.
Ken (Peter Wight) seeks solace
and finds friendship with anything
labelled 13 per cent alcohol. His
t-shirt slogan sums up his life: 'Less
thinking, more drinking'.
Tom and Gerri's son, Joe (Oliver
Maltman) is relatively stable, alth-
ough he maintains a distance
from his parents.
His parents hope that he will find
a suitable life partner and draw
them into his life more than he
If one is not familiar with Mike
Leigh's films, he is a master of
gently peeling away the layers of
an individual's existence and dis-
secting their relationships with fam-
ily and friends, while absorbing the
audience in the process.
Do not expect to leave the
cinema unaffected. One is drawn
into these people's lives. You will sit
there taking deep breaths and
wishing for something to uplift their
lives only to discover there is no
way up, out or over.
We don't feel sorry for them. We
don't pity them. We are enveloped
by their futility.
What sounds like an unremark-
able title for a movie, Another
Year, describes the monotony and
repetitious nature of their lives.
Their lives aren't moving forward
as much as being in a holding
pattern. They have a future but it's
more of the same. They are not
defined by what they have done
but by the hollows in their lives.
Watching a Mike Leigh film is like
peering through your neighbour's
curtains as an observer who is
compelled to watch their private
lives unfold and their innermost
feelings laid bare.
Leigh is incisive, perceptive and
unrelenting. If you think this all
sounds intense, you are correct.
Be prepared. Another Year is
deliberate in its earnestness.
In some ways, it is a self-
conscious film. It features sombre
music, desaturated colour, ambi-
ent sound that is barely audible
and expressive close-ups that
linger with undiluted despon-
Tom and Gerri's veggie patch
and the changing seasons reflect
the character's moods, needs and
All of this has a hypnotic effect
on the audience.
You feel as if you there sitting at
Tom and Gerri's table as an unin-
vited guest hoping that your own
veneer is not stripped bare yet
knowing that you can't pull your-
Just watching the amount of
alcohol being consumed con-
stantly by Tom, Gerri, Ken and
Mary left me feeling hung over
and I hadn't had a drink in days.
You will feel inebriated, not from
alcohol, but the unrelenting
interrogation of Mike Leigh's cam-
Like bottles of alcohol and ciga-
rette packets that carry warnings
to "Drink in moderation" and
"Smoking kills", Another Year
should have a warning label:
"May lead to emotional insights or
Do not see this film if your career
has been side-swiped, your
relationship with a significant other
is faltering or you have lost your
rose coloured glasses.
Another Year is not a film for
everyone, but a film that many
people should see.
Another Year, rated M, in cine-
mas from Thursday.
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