Another Year is the latest offering from British writer and director Mike Leigh. I feel like I should have seen a lot of his films, but the only other one I'm sure I've seem is Secrets and Lies - which I have a soft spot for since it's one of the few films out there with an optometrist as one of the main characters. And it's got Timothy Spall in it, for whom I also have a soft spot. Both Secrets and Lies and Another Year are the British antithesis of a Hollywood movie. The stars look like ordinary people, rather than beautiful people chosen for their looks. They're filmed in ordinary homes (although I'd have to says Tom's brother's terraced house was almost extraordinary in its dreariness) and the characters are portrayed warts and all.
The characters and their warts are pretty much the point of the film. The central characters are a married couple called Tom and Gerri who seem remarkably contented with their lives and each other. He's an engineering geologist and she's a counsellor at a medical practice and they live in a very pleasant house in London. Their alotment garden is a big feature in their lives as is their adult son Joe.
Another year watches the rhythm of Tom and Gerri's life- they are the sun and friends and family spin around them like planets, using them for light and warmth. Mary is one of the friends - she's a typist at the medical centre. She's single, fond of a drink and Tom and Gerri's son Joe and short of money and consideration for others. Her life is chaotic and her planet seems liable to spin off course. And then there's Ken, whose life is equally disastrous, and Ronnie (Tom's recently bereaved brother), and the aforementioned Joe and his new girlfriend.
Not all that much happens in Another Year. The rewards of watching it are the amazingly convincing acting (it's almost like a documentary) and the human interest factor. Mary is particularly well-acted and she's splendidly self-centred. Tom and Gerri come across as generous with their time and resources but a bit self-satisfied with it. Definitely not an escapist movie - more an examination of the human condition
Anne's rating 3.5/5 Ian's rating 3/5