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Another Year

Submitted by Commandrea on January 28, 2011 – 1:22 amNo Comment
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I liked Mike Leigh better when he hated everybody, but lately it seems he likes the characters that populate his movies. Leigh has the cachet of being guaranteed an Oscar nom for writing or directing nearly every time out. His latest film Another Year, up for writing honors, has earned Leigh a nom for best original screenplay. Ironically Leigh’s screenplays are collaborations between himself and his actors, with much of the narrative derived from a period of rehearsal where the artists improvise situations around their characters.

Years ago Leigh was always finding fault with all his characters, like in the film Naked where everybody was, to put it bluntly, totally off their rockers. But in Another Year it’s like Leigh wants to find solace in those who know how to enjoy life. The lead couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) seem to’ve found a secret to happiness – it’s all in your attitude, and they embrace each day with pleasure whether at their job or just working in their garden. Yet this solid couple find themselves drawn into the insecurities and neurosis of Mary (Lesley Manville).

Mary may have a wee bit of a drinking problem but her real problem is low self-esteem. And just when you want Mary to level out and get a grip she acts like an asshole. In one bit of business, marked by a sad comic escalation of emotion, we’re practically aghast when Mary insults the son of he hosts because he’s dared to show up with a fiancée. This makes it hard for the audience to garner sympathy for Mary when she herself is hit on by an obnoxious suitor.

Another Year, true to its title, unwinds over the period of a year. The magic of Leigh’s style of filmmaking is the way in which events flow; always a steady stream of human emotions that ring true even while revealing facets and faults that most of us would prefer to hide away. Another Year opens this weekend exclusively at the River Oaks Three.

- Michael Bergeron

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