Friday, January 14, 2011
One of my top ten films in 2008 "Happy-Go-Lucky" is notoriously overlooked by the Academy Awards last year, so are the director Mike Leigh and the leading actress Sally Hawkins. Like the protagonist in that film, acclaimed writer/director Mike Leigh does not seem to be affected by this a bit. Just look at his new film "Another Year" (UK 2010 | 129 min.). This delight film is jammed with charm, affection, and humor.
The film is divided in four seasons. In each season, it tells a story inside the cozy nest of Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), where their adult son Joe (Oliver Maltman) and Gerri's co-worker Lesley Manville occasionally visit.
Tom and Gerri are a happily married couple and live together almost perfectly. Every single moment they spend time together, you can sense their content and appreciation to each other, regardless they are cooking or gardening, reading or chatting, even when they are just having a cup of tea on the back of their truck. Sharply contrary to their happiness, restless Mary is lonely and unhappy, drinks a bit too much, and lacks of social etiquette from time to time. Mary is the one who generates the most comic moments in the film, but the jokes are at her expense. Tom and Gerri warmly provide nonjudgmental support to Mary's immature behavior, until Mary shows jealousy toward Joe's happy-go-lucky new girlfriend Katie (Karina Fernandez). Of course, being Tom and Gerri, they forgive any missteps Mary may have, and embrace her again with warmth and kindness.
Director Mike Leigh does not explain the magic behind Tom and Gerri's bliss, nor does he need to. He simply presents and adores these lovely life-affirming characters as the way he creates them. He shows the world that people can continue to have a fulfilled joyful life even when they grow older, unless you are like Mary who is getting old alone.
Constantly, Tom and Gerri irresistibly charm us with their amiable attitude. Don't blame on Mary, who would not love to have friends like Tom and Gerri? Being grumpy and bitchy is never attractive, even you are Lewis Black. However, compared to Tom and Gerri, Mary is absolutely miserable, especially in the later half of the film, when she is not even funny any more.
The film tells its stories that seem ordinary and uneventful, as the title implies that this is just another year. However, these stories reflect the reality how happiness can be found and lost in these daily routines. It is up to us to find the joy of living, either you already find it like Tom and Gerri, or you are desperately searching for it like Mary.
And, you might want to find a truck and sit on the back to sip a cup of tea. Oh, in the rain too. In the film, Tom and Gerri surely make it look like the best thing to enjoy in life. It probably is if you enjoy doing it.