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Thursday, May 30

Another Year or Mike Leigh's aging gracefully

Another Year is a humane drama about the way we choose to grow old in our senior times- by gracefully embracing old age or ridiculously avoiding to accept decrepitude. Mike Leigh invites us to take a warm, close look at a nice married couple, the relationship between the two spouses and the way they relate to the rest of the world.

Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) are in their sixties; he’s a commercial geologist and  she’s an NHS therapist who live in the suburbs, tend to their veggie garden, have a rich social life and often meet friends over lunch, tea or dinner. They act as catalyst for the changes that occur in the lives of those around them, whether they are friends such as Mary (Lesley Manville) or Gerri’s depressed patient, Janet (Imelda Staunton). The unbalanced existences of those around them, even that of their son, reflect on the peaceful, content life that Tom and Gerri share. The most dramatic is Mary, a single, unhappy secretary, past her prime, longing for affection and drinking away her pain. Mary wrongs her friend, Gerri and is temporarily banished from the merry encounters until the latter takes pity on her reformed friend. She is the embodiment of loneliness and unhappiness and Leslie Manville's performance is powerful and touching.
However, Tom and Gerri's kindness and compassion seem slightly condescending and their inexhaustible resourcefulness is in constant opposition with the others' poverty, unhappiness and lack of perspectives. It is as if Mike Leigh was trying to tell us that happiness is the gift of the intellectual, financially stable representatives of the British society, an elite that can afford to be generous and liberal. The same discrepancies are obvious in the depiction of the two brothers' homes: that of Tom is cosy, bright and happy, whereas his brother, Ronnie (David Bradley) has a bleak, mute, shabby house. Do all these people belong to the same world? Are they all entitled to be happy or is marital bliss measurable to social status? Choices seem to elude people such as Mary or Ken, an old friend of Tom's and appear to be available for the rest of the world only. 

In a word, Another Year is an emotional, enriching, though saddening drama, a content look at the four seasons of life and the way people choose to feel about old age. The great performances, the peaceful rhythm of the film and the director's desire to aim for compassion make Another Year a movie worth watching. Whether we choose to make everyday life extraordinary or a dreadful experience, this is a slice of life.
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