Published: February 2, 2011
Directed by Mike Leigh
Opens Feb. 4
British couple Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) are gainfully and intellectually employed, have a good relationship with their 30-year-old son Joe (Oliver Maltman), live in a cozy house filled with cultural flotsam, spend time together tending a garden allotment, and are total huggers. They hug and hold on as a greeting and farewell to friends and to family, and especially those they invite for a meal and a bottle of wine. Another Year, written and directed by prolific filmmaker Mike Leigh, follows them through four seasons starting with autumn.
Compassionate and sincere with long gray hair and a thing for linen tunics, Gerri counsels patients at the local hospital and spends her sessions trying to draw them out of their shell. No need for that with longtime friend and co-worker Mary (Lesley Manville), a chatty single lady with highlighted hair and a slim figure. Out for a happy hour, the two share a bottle of wine and Mary sings the praises of her independent life, efficient little flat, and job, but her eyes dart and her hands dance with manic energy. When Gerri heads home after just one glass, Mary preps to flirt with a man alone at the bar when his quite younger companion sidles up and Mary’s face instantly falls—her earlier insistence of well-being ringing untrue. It’s only just the first season in the movie and already it feels like a bit of a bummer.
When Tom and Gerri welcome Mary over for dinner that weekend, she chugs her white wine while Tom makes dinner—he’s a good cook, enjoys company, and cares for Mary although you can tell she is really more Gerri’s friend. As the evening progresses, Mary drinks a great deal and friendly conversation takes a sad turn with her serious emotional declarations, teary confessions, and self-pity. The hosts appear to take this social liability, who sleeps it off in Joe’s old room, as par for the course.
The same goes during the weekend visit of their good friend Ken (Peter Wight), an overweight and unsatisfied but playful single guy who looks one pack of chips and two cans of beer away from a heart attack. Ken drinks red wine like it quenches his thirst and has his own sort of breakdown in their back garden over cigarettes. Gerri hugs him. Tom and Ken play golf the next day. Seems Tom and Gerri’s closest friends are depressed drinkers; maybe all of our acquaintances would be this much of a bummer if seen on the big screen.
When their son Joe finally brings home his lady friend Katie (Karina Fernandez), the happy foursome joke and break bread at the liveliest shared meal of the year. Mary’s arrival for tea later the same evening marks the end of that good time, and the beginning of a gulf in her friendship with Gerri. Tom and Gerri are lucky, just like Mary always says, but still, time moves on. And like in their garden plot, they put in the time whether what’s there is growing or not.
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