It does exactly what it says on the tin: a year in the life. The main characters are happily married Tom and Gerri (yes, like the cartoon), a couple easing their way towards retirement. The story follows them as they’re visited by:
Mary (Lesley Manville), alcoholic, lonely and utterly depressed
Ken (Peter Wight) alcoholic, lonely and utterly depressed
Joe (Oliver Maltman), their son who visits infrequently.
The Heimlich Manoeuvre gets less vigorous with age.
The script, courtesy of director Mike Leigh, is absolutely fantastic. There’s never a moment of useless dialogue or cliché. The characters are all hideously believable to the point where you’ll spend the whole film trying to think which family member they remind you of. You’ve had these dinners and barbeques, you’ve been to these wakes and funerals; you’ve met these people and you’ve had these uncomfortable silences. These characters, young or old, are you and me.
There’s one thing my missus was wrong about. This isn’t a feel good film. If you want to be cheered up, this isn’t the place to be. There’s no Cocoon ending for these old folks. Just life with a capital L.
You’d think that being an actor called upon to play an ordinary person with an ordinary life would be easy. Sure, that’s what you’d think. So why do so many actors fall pathetically short? Well, no need to fear, because the cast of Another Year hit every mark given to them. Tom and Gerri’s (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) relationship is so real I forgot that I’d recently seen Broadbent as a Hot Fuzz police chief or Harry Potter’s (sign thyself against the evil eye) Professor Slughorn.
But I’ll stop bashing on now.
The only downside, is the sense of unease you get when you realise that these people are you. But surely that’s the point and so it’s really a positive. At least Another Year makes you feel something, unlike Burke and Hare (which we’ll get to later). And there’s the run time, but that doesn’t feel as hard a hit as you might imagine. The fourteen endings to Lord of the Rings still feel longer than this whole film.
I know you’re waiting for the next Barry Trotter farce. I know you’ve pre-ordered tickets for Burlesque (Christina Aguilera in corsets? Why wouldn’t you?). Or there’s Tron Legacy to look forward to. But, please, in the meantime, if only to support our great British actors and film makers against the great wave of Hollywood pseudo-shite, go see this movie.
“Long in the tooth.”