High Hopes (1989)
Mike Leigh's Another Year (2010) is like a tender, swollen, beating heart that you hold within your palms: the soft flesh expands and contracts with every breath, and through the tiny crevices in between your fingers, life juices flow.
"Life is not always kind, is it?"
Gerri looks at Mary and quietly let those words slip. Mary catches her gaze, briefly. The letters settle over them like a mild fog, unmistakably present and non-disruptive, and the day proceeds on as it does.
Another day. Another year.
Through uncanny realism and probing characters, Leigh's latest film speaks of the pervasive dilemma of our kind: how do we live in this world in the presence of those so different and similar to ourselves at once? How do we make sense of each of our own way of life?
One of the great accomplishments of Mike Leigh's "Another Year" -- and perhaps an essential reason for its existence -- is to test the audience's judgments and perceptions of the characters. It's rare that you find such a wide range of interpretations about what is actually going on in a movie. Take a look at some of these reactions, from the insightful to the blind. But which, do you think, is which?
"Tom [Jim Broadbent] and Gerri [Ruth Sheen] are cheery, comfortable old lefties who've understood that they're not in a position to change the world anymore, and have gotten to be fine with that -- there's a correlation between this picture and Leigh's 1988 'High Hopes, in which a younger (obviously), punkier, leather-jacketed Sheen played one half of far a more agitated couple in Thatcherite Britain. As for Mary [Leslie Manville], her life is one (largely invented) turmoil after another, and the couple's dealings with her frantic plaints eventually get the viewer to wondering whether these nice, settled folks are really all that nice. Mary is very clearly an alcoholic. But the A-word is never once dropped in the film. And Gerri, who's a therapist herself, never even suggests counseling, or a support group, to Mary until an almost cruel hammer-dropping scene near the film's end. Tom and Gerri are so very polite, so very indulgent, so very correct in all their dealings, all the while dispensing conventional left-liberal wisdom spiked with conventional complacent cynicism whenever contemplating a crisis, be it global or local. But it's clear that all the while, they're stifling their own strong feelings of put-upon-ness and resentment. As much as you like them -- and maybe you won't like them, (that's one of the things about Leigh's films and their characters, they're so unusually and thoroughly textured that they never seem designed to elicit a simple response) -- you have to wonder if they're so besotted by their own comfort and contentment that they can't help but act as passive-aggressive near-monsters to the people they're supposedly close to.
"As Tom and Gerri are laid bare (or are they? That's another thing about Leigh, that he never appears himself to be making any kind of overt judgments on his characters, or even preparing any kind of melodramatic reveal of their hidden natures) the film brims with uncomfortable little touches." -- Glenn Kenny, MSN Movies
TORONTO--The enormity of the attack on the World Trade Center struck many artists dumb; what can be said, and how? Anne Nelson's play "The Guys," which was quickly produced in New York and has starred many actors, reduces the story to two people: one who remembers his fallen comrades, and one who wants to help him word his memories. Now it has been made into a film, which premieres on 9/11/02 at Toronto.