Another Year, another Mike Leigh movie. There’s a complaint amongst some critics that his individual film-making style means all his films are basically the same. However, there’s an assuredness to Another Year that makes it a little different to his other films.
Spring brings hope, Summer fulfilment, Autumn harvest, and Winter rest. The seasons are so intertwined rhythm and structure of our lives, it would be folly to attempt to ignore them.
Another Year centres on a happily married couple. Yes, a happily married couple. They’re happy. They’re married. Deal with it.
Tom and Gerri are a couple who understand the seasons. One of their hobbies is growing things in their vegetable patch at an allotment. They patiently plant, tend, harvest and then eat their crops. The assured, attentive way they go about this aspect of their lives summing up the way in which they go about every other aspect.
Mary is not a gardener. She is a work colleague of Gerri’s. Neither does she cook. She is single, and claims she is happy with her independence, her freedom. However, it’s obvious that’s not the case.
At the heart of this film is the way in which two people can have such a marked impact on others because of the assuredness and comfort they draw from one another. Whether it’s Mary; or Ken, an old alcoholic friend of Tom’s; or Ronnie, Tom’s recently widowed brother; they all obviously appreciate the friendship and quiet support of this soon-to-be-retired hippyish couple.
As with all of Mike Leigh’s films, the dialogue gives the characters a real depth that allows you to really believe in the characters and their problems.
The way we’re allowed to view them seems strangely intrusive. It speaks volumes to the director that he can create such a feeling from his audience. These are after all, only characters. Yet their foibles and problems feel like more than that.
It’s interesting to note a contentedness to his central characters in his last few films (Happy Go Lucky and, to a slightly lesser extent, Vera Drake) that was not evident in his earlier films depicting the Thatcher years. It seems the director has mellowed somewhat with age.
Another Year is a quite brilliant movie from a director whose work is incredibly consistent and insightful. Its themes of growing old, dealing with change and coping with disappointment are deftly handled. This is another Mike Leigh film, and like summer I’m glad it’s come around.