I once stopped Mike Leigh on
Great Marlborough Street in Soho. Ever the polite Englishman, I awkwardly gushed, “I’m really sorry to bother you but I just wanted to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your films over the years.” He offered me his hand and said, “Well, it’s very nice to be bothered.” That remark sort of sums up Another Year – he makes all the bother seem enjoyable. Then again, you could say that of his entire back catalogue.
Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) are a loving, and most notably, happy couple. The trouble is they’re surrounded by miserable people. Possibly more downbeat than Mike Leigh’s usual fare it is still very much a life-affirming story. The more Tom and Gerri give, the more they get. By which, I mean, they are richly rewarded with happiness.
Broadbent and Sheen are fantastic as the dream friends/ perfect Mum and Dad. There are so many good performances in this film but it’s frustrating – as with much of Leigh’s work - when some stray a little into parody. One of whom, was Lesley Manville. She received a lot of nominations but, personally, I found her a bit over the top. Notable mention to Martin Savage – although the role is small, he appears out of the blue like a heat-seeking missile. Having only otherwise seen him as the flouncy BBC writer who assists Ricky Gervais’s character in Extras, the intensity of his performance rendered him completely unrecognisable. (I had to look him up.)
By the way, the “A Film by Mike Leigh” credit is totally unnecessary. We’re well aware you’re an auteur, Mr Leigh. Actually, I believe the “A Film by” tag is always unnecessary. To be fair, he’s not the only culprit. (By a long shot.) For example, the screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire was written by Simon Beaufoy, it was adapted from a novel by Vikas Swarup, yet was still touted as “A Film by Danny Boyle”. At least Another Year was written (and entirely so) by Leigh himself.