Another Year, another great movie

Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent star in Another Year

It was like a cartoon stereotype–there I was, standing in line to buy movie tickets an hour before the Super Bowl kickoff, and I realized that I was the only man there.  Looked like every football widow in the Diablo Valley was going to the movies this afternoon, and I was joining them.  Which is fine with me, because the movie we saw was a damn sight better than the football game.

Another Year was written and directed by Mike Leigh, director of the Academy Award winning Secrets and Lies.  His specialty is movies about the relationships between and among people–no car chases or fireworks here.

The movie stars Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as Tom and Gerri, an absurdly happy couple living in London, tending their garden, enjoying their careers as geologist (Tom) and therapist (Gerri), and watching over their friends and relatives.  Broadbent is a veteran of the screen, while Ruth Sheen has had a stage career–she may well be the least attractive leading lady of the year, yet she is perfectly cast and does a magnificent job.

The angst in the movie comes from Mary (Lesley Manville).  A friend of Gerri’s from work, Mary is needy, whiny, irritating, compulsive and alcoholic.  She’s a walking trainwreck, who makes herself the center of attention by being constantly miserable.  I hated the character, loved the characterization.   The final shot of the film is perhaps 30 seconds, wordless, just watching her project her pain.  Manville was surprisingly overlooked in Academy Award nominations–she steals this movie completely.

This is an English movie–it’s slow.  Nothing really happens, there are just people talking and interacting.  There isn’t any particular plot–just a chronicle of a year in the life of a happy couple with unhappy friends.    The magic is in the details, the long slow takes focusing on the minutia of daily life.  You will get drawn in, though.  You will care about the people, even the ones you don’t like.

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