Another Year

7 05 2011


Time is not always kind. In Another Year, we see the positive and negative effects of time on a British family and their group of friends.

The movie is set over the course of a year, and much of it takes place in one house. This being a character piece, action is non-existent and dialogue is heavy. The idea is to provide a snapshot of an average life in order to explore the nuances of one’s relationships with friends, family and time.

Tom and Gerri, the two main characters, are the perfect married couple: they communicate with each other, contact their son regularly, and drink lightly. Time has clearly aged them well.

In contrast, they surround themselves with characters that are stuck in ruts, like Mary, a secretary with no children and a history of failed romances. Constantly depressed by the sight of her aging body, she turns to vices like drinking and smoking. Her desperate attachment to objects, like her new car, and people, like Tom, Gerri and their son, is creating a tragic cycle of dependency and dejection.

These characters are brought to life through several magnificent acting performances. While the actors will be mostly unknown to North American audiences, they end up stealing the show.

another year movie review

Lesley Manville, as Mary, is particularly good. The emotions of her character, which are in a constant state of flux, are often portrayed by something as simple as a glance. For example, when Tom and Gerri’s son, Joe, brings his young and attractive girlfriend to a family dinner, the tension in the room is palpable. Mary’s face is a whirlwind of emotions, culminating in the miserable realization that her best days are behind her. Although little dialogue is spoken, this conclusion is made clear to the audience through Manville’s acting.

Director and writer Mike Leigh brings a distinctive tone to the film. The shots are creatively placed and highlight the mood of the characters, while vibrant colours are rare, as most of the shots involve an overcast sky and a washed out environment. Meanwhile, the dialogue is witty and revealing, which furthers the believability of the situation.

another year movie review

Time is inescapable. You can either accept it, or be miserable about it. In Another Year, the outcome of this choice is made clear. While Tom and Gerri are happily getting older, Mary becomes increasingly depressed with each passing day. This story is tragic, yet it is seen in society every day.

I was initially hesitant to review Another Year. A character piece about fifty-year-olds and their interweaving drama will not appeal to many in my demographic. However, the direction, dialogue, and acting are superb, and while it will not get your heart racing, it does provide some tasty food for thought.