Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another Year

Mike Leigh's run of form continues.

Review by Claude Carpentieri

If there ever was an imaginary Award for Best Social Observation and another for Best Depiction of the Ordinary, Mike Leigh would probably make a clean sweep each time.

His new release Another Year follows in the footsteps of some of his best work - 2002's All or Nothing and 1995's Secrets And Lies to mention but two.

This, however, is probably the first time Leigh casts his lens solely on the middle classes.

Past criticism that most of his work is allegedly a patronising take on the working classes as downtrodden salt-of-the-earth types was always ingenerous. And, like in every other of his films, Another Year goes to show that dysfunctional interaction and social ineptitude, contentment and loneliness, delusion and caring alike have all little to do with class as they're just integral to humanity.

At the core of Another Year, a couple approaching retirement; husband Tom (Jim Broadbent - Slater from Only Fools and Horses), a geologist and wife Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a psychologist. Their house, a large and cosy one in a leafy London suburb. Their son, Joe (possibly separated at birth from Keane's lead singer), an affectionate, sensible young lawyer. Their relationship, an island of warmth, affection and security amidst a social cluster where all of their friends and extended family seem to struggle with solitude and assorted demons.

The film unravels over a year. Each season, a friend or family visits Tom and Gerri, initially proudly claiming that "all is fine" and that "they're happier than ever", only to gradually let on - generally courtesy of a few drinks - that the picture is a totally different one and that, actually, loneliness and ageing are corroding them from within.

Another Year works because of its contemplative, gentle pace and its minimalistic touches. It wouldn't be a Mike Leigh film if the camera work wasn't so subtly masterful and the depiction of the most precious details so intense.

But Another Year also works because it never wishes to lecture anybody on anything. It's just a take on the fact that sometimes companionship can serve as the best refuge against ageing, insecurity and depression.

An absolute masterpiece.

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