Review: Another Year
There’s something about British director Mike Leigh. A truly cerebral auteur, you may know him for his work in Topsy-Turvy, Happy-Go-Lucky, and the un-hyphenated but adequately ampersanded Secrets & Lies.
Another Year is centered around a stable married couple whose friends and relatives bring seismic rumblings during one eventful year in their otherwise happy, settled existence.
Frequent Mike Leigh collaborator Jim Broadbent brings levity to this slice of life showcase as the jovial Tom. Tom’s wife, Gerri, is helmed by Ruth Sheen. Her conflicted maternal instincts are expertly exposed throughout the year with the most nuanced of mannerisms and expressions. Her stoicism is omnipresent throughout most of the film, but you can sense those buried emotions just simmering beneath the surface.
David Bradley delivers a devastating performance as widower Ronnie. While you may know Bradley best for his role as groundskeeper and squib Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films, this veteran Brit’s oeuvre is as impressive as it is long.
If there can be a standout performance is such a cinema gem, it would be Lesley Manville as Ruth’s friend Mary. There is something quintessentially annihilating about this film, and Mary is a big component of that ambiance. It marinated with me for a few days after viewing, but I didn’t feel it was a depressing watch either. You are watching Mary simply unspool in front of your eyes but you only feel concern and empathy for her wretched stratagems.
The film is beautifully shot in 35mm with Arricam LT, Cooke S4 Lenses. The 129 mins runtime does not feel too long at all; it gives the characters time to develop and evolve. You will not want to say goodbye to them at the film’s end.
All in all, give this film a go. You might feel that it’s the best film you’ve seen in a long time. Or at least since you saw Midnight in Paris.
If you are a Mike Leigh beginner, start with Secrets & Lies. It is an easily accessible though not always easily watchable) film with a high squirm quotient. The performances are powerhouse and understated, depending on what is required for the actors. Topsy-Turvy is perfect for Gilbert & Sullivan fans, and if you did not have a penchant for The Mikado before you saw the film, you are sure to afterward. Vera Drake is a grittier tale of a home-care abortion provider in 1950s England (but regardless of your position on the political spectrum, this is not to be missed for the riveting performance by Imelda Staunton).
Fun fact: Another Year actors David Bradley, Imelda Staunton, and Jim Broadbent have all appeared in multiple Harry Potter films (as Argus Filch, Dolores Umbridge, and Professor Horace Slughorn, respectively). Timothy Spall from Secrets & Lies played Wormtail, and AY/S&L actress Lesley Manville was married to Gary Oldman, aka Sirius Black.
Recommendation Level: Strongly Recommended