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Film Reviews

"ANOTHER YEAR” A film review by Linda Bergman

 

Yet another comedy/drama from the Brits!

 

I thought, after seeing the bright and bushy-tailed Made In Dagenham, that Another Year was so unassuming even its Oscar buzz couldn’t help. I was sure I’d never think about it again. But I was seriously wrong. I’m thinking about it nonstop. The performances are so remarkable they carry you through its maze of personal involvements.
             
Everyone who follows director Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Topsy Turvy) knows that, like Woody Allen, he uses the same coterie of actors in most of his films. This  character-driven, year-in-the-life tale is no different. What everyone might NOT know is that Mike Leigh starts work without a script or even a hint as to what the script will be about.
“He calls us on the phone,” says actress Lesley Manville, (Vera Drake, The Queen) and then we work together for about eighteen weeks improvising scenes until characters are fleshed out and a plot is decided. Then Mike goes away, writes the script and the film is shot like any other.”  

Friend and mutual film buff Hutton Cobb who saw Manville and actor Jim Broadbent at a Screen Actor's Guild event, reports that when asked how they felt about Leigh’s nominations for best screenplays ( Secrets and Lies, Vera Drake) when it was their dialogue being used, they answered:

 

“We’re used to it.”
 
Manville and Broadbent (Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake, Harry Potter), who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Iris, spoke to our group as well.

The affable actor made us laugh as he spoke with wit and candor. He said he enjoyed working with his friends, Ruth Sheen (Vanity Fair, High Hopes) and Manville, but also wanted us to know...

“You don’t want to do two Mike Leigh films back to back. It’s exhausting!”
             
Sheen, who from the Linda Bergman perspective, should be nominated for an Academy Award for the honesty and ease with which she performs. She plays Gerri to Broadbent’s Tom, a successfully long-married couple who are besieged by miserable friends and family, especially Mary (Manville), Gerri’s single co-worker who is not aging well and drinking too much.
         
The story is set against the four seasons. (Yes, I know, you’ve never seen that device before(:) It begins in Spring with what is or isn’t growing in Gerri and Tom’s allotment, or what we in America would call a community garden. Using the wonders/perils of each season as a metaphor for the birth and death that occur in a given year, Leigh digs up a lot of dirt, stirring uncomfortable emotions about the choices we make in life.  

We have all had sorry souls pass through our lives and maybe have even been one ourselves, flopping on our friend’s sofas and boring them with our troubles. Mis-billed as a comedy drama, we find ourselves begging for a good laugh as a deep sadness permeates the film even when there is cause for celebration. Mary is such a train wreck and so frozen in timethat she secretly fancies a relationship with Gerri and Tom’s son, Joe, whom she has baby sat since he was a toddler.  When he announces his engagement, Mary is struck with a reality she recognizes but cannot accept.

Though many will call it art,  the ending feels to me like Leigh and his band of cohorts painted themselves into a corner.  It could also be that this is a chick-flick but my decidedly virile mate says “Nope!”  So, you be the judge.
 
It’s rated PG 13, runs for 129 minutes and is set to open December 29th just in time to qualify for the Academy Awards.

I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS