Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

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Timec
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Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#1 Post by Timec » Sun May 16, 2010 5:31 pm

One of my most anticipated films at Cannes, Mike Leigh's newest film has had its first screenings and most reviews have been very positive.

The Cannes site contains some clips.

Time Out review
Screen Daily review
AV Club review

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Camera Obscura
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#2 Post by Camera Obscura » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:24 pm

Mike Leigh says: 'The future of cinema is rich and hopeful'. Nice 16 min. interview with Mike Leigh on Another Year (2010) in The Guardian.

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James Mills
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#3 Post by James Mills » Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:36 pm

To accompany the previous post, this Guardian review has been out over a month, but thought I'd share it here in hopes of hyping up the upcoming USA release date. I adore Leigh and this is easily my most anticipated film of the year (especially after being severely disappointed with True Grit and somewhat disappointed with Black Swan).

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#4 Post by bdsweeney » Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:11 pm

Unfortunately I don't have much time to write at length, suffice to say I was very disappointed.

More than ever with Leigh's style of character development, the characters soon develop into 'camps' of either happy or unhappy, with the film not voicing there being any chance of overlap. I've seen in articles that Leigh insists that he is evenhanded with his characters, but he could not be more condescending to certain characters. Once you see the film, you will know immediately of who I speak.

Secondly, the much-vaunted character development style he and his actors employ sadly ends with performances that are very mannered and over-played.

Having said that, I did greatly enjoy David Bradley's performance.

Oh well, my 5-minute work break is up. Sorry for the brevity.

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James Mills
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#5 Post by James Mills » Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:39 am

Within the first act of Another Year, any cinephile familiar with Mike Leigh should easily be able to guess who made it. The king of empathy and performance direction returns in predictable form, albeit a bit too predictable.

As usual with Leigh, Another Year works best when the shots are allowed to breath and play themselves through without editorial attention. It's here when his characters are granted their admissions or recapitulations about their feelings, deftly crafted into a form of cathartic eruption rather than unwarranted exposition. Another Year gets its fine share of such heartfelt moments, but not before a very slow first act that introduces us to an array of characters that are mostly free of troubles and responsibilities (yet surprisingly also free of the observations that accompany most Art Cinema protagonists). Unfortunately, being free of troubles and responsibilities doesn't equate to the most entertaining of plots, thus the time better be well spent in developing these characters and their relations to one another. This is accomplished in the sense that these characters and their personality traits are very real by the film's end, but that's easy to do when most of them don't have specific personality traits differentiable from one another. However, Leigh's fantastic casting and staging gets the utmost talents out of his players to mask some of their lacking specificities. Ultimately, we get a group of characters that are human and worth caring about, which is still more important than simply being interesting.

Some other familiar Leigh facets are frequent: the sound design is poignant and vigilant and the offbeat humor is always fluidly comforting and effortless (though the improvised shooting still leaves for some awkward cuts every scene or two). What makes the film work for me is the aforementioned affect of Leigh's characters that do share their fears and troubles, even if growing old and being lonely seems to be a tired theme in his films. Then again, these are tired themes in life too, are they not? Another Year is a reminder that we're all in this together, and being able to subtly transmit this hopefulness is a difficult art that Leigh has mastered.
Last edited by James Mills on Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#6 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:43 am

James Mills wrote:Within the first act of Another Year, any cinephile familiar with Mike Leigh would have a hard time guessing who made it. The king of empathy and performance direction returns in predictable form, albeit a bit too predictable.
Is it just me, or does that make no sense whatsoever? Did the first sentence somehow end up saying the exact opposite of what you intended?
Last edited by MichaelB on Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:52 am, edited 2 times in total.

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James Mills
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#7 Post by James Mills » Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:49 am

MichaelB wrote:
James Mills wrote:Within the first act of Another Year, any cinephile familiar with Mike Leigh would have a hard time guessing who made it. The king of empathy and performance direction returns in predictable form, albeit a bit too predictable.
Is it just me, or does that make no sense whatsoever? Did the first sentence somehow end up saying the exact opposite of what you intended?
lol, I meant "would have a hard time not guessing who made it." Even that sounds strange though so I'll edit it out, thanks.

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#8 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:56 am

I'd recommend a top-to-bottom rewrite, to be brutally honest, addressing these points at the very least:

1. The review tells you next to nothing about what it's like actually watching the film as a dramatic or cinematic experience.

2. Despite praising Leigh's "fantastic casting" and calling him "the king of performance direction", you don't name any of the actors or describe their performances in any detail. Vague references to "the characters" and unidentified "personality traits" could mean anything at all.

3. Aside from a passing reference to "growing old and lonely", which you then undermine with a baffling complaint that this is "a tired theme in his films" (Really? Which others?), I'm getting no sense of what the film is about.

4. What on earth does "the sound design is poignant and vigilant" mean in plain English?

5. Much more seriously, the complaint that "the improvised shooting still leaves for some awkward cuts every scene or two" betrays a worrying ignorance of how Leigh actually shoots his films. If you don't know that (given how frequently Leigh has discussed his working methods), what exactly are your qualifications for making sweeping statements about his work?

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James Mills
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#9 Post by James Mills » Sat Jan 08, 2011 8:30 am

I didn't realize this was an audition for "At the Movies...", but I'll do my best:

1. I don't know what this means. I said it's slow, if that's what you're thinking of? It isn't Die Hard.

2. I didn't want to single out any actors in particular because I felt it would discredit the others, as there isn't a clear cut star of this film and each of the leads is fantastic. As for the second part, I don't think a summary of each character is necessary to claim that those who are void of responsibilities and troubles seem to have similar personality traits.

3. Again, I don't think writing a summary of the film's plot is necessary. Anyone can find a more accurate synopsis through trailers and advertisements or professional reviews. This is a film forum, I don't feel like my opinion needs its entire context to be attached. And to answer your question, I certainly feel that Secrets and Lies, Naked, Happy Go Lucky, and Another Year all have a similar theme of growing old and lonely with at least one of their main characters.

4. It means that the sound design adds appropriate emotions to each scene (poignancy) and that it predicates more some of the more courageous admissions and recapitulations of its characters (vigilance).

5. He uses a vast amount of master shots to accompany his closeups, does he not? This style is usually utilized for improv, though Leigh seems to get more awkward cuts than others. Perhaps they're somehow intentional, though I still don't prefer them (cutting from flat mediums to flat closeups is pretty jarring).

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#10 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jan 08, 2011 10:39 am

James Mills wrote:1. I don't know what this means. I said it's slow, if that's what you're thinking of? It isn't Die Hard.
No, I mean that it's pretty much impossible to glean an impression of what the film is like from what you wrote, as you offer next to no detail. I don't know what it's about, I don't know who the characters are, I don't know what it looks like, I get very little impression of its tone, and I don't even know who's in it! Instead, I get vague waffle about "most Art Cinema protagonists", a statement that's meaningless to me. Michel Poiccard, Grigory Valukinchuk, the Ambassador of Miranda, Mr and Mrs Hirayama and Vincent Gallo's silent Taliban fugitive are all "Art Cinema protagonists".
2. I didn't want to single out any actors in particular because I felt it would discredit the others, as there isn't a clear cut star of this film and each of the leads is fantastic. As for the second part, I don't think a summary of each character is necessary to claim that those who are void of responsibilities and troubles seem to have similar personality traits.
But in your determination to be as fair as possible, you end up not telling us anything about these people at all! Seriously, what am I supposed to make of this:
This is accomplished in the sense that these characters and their personality traits are very real by the film's end, but that's easy to do when most of them don't have specific personality traits differentiable from one another. However, Leigh's fantastic casting and staging gets the utmost talents out of his players to mask some of their lacking specificities. Ultimately, we get a group of characters that are human and worth caring about, which is still more important than simply being interesting.
...when you don't offer any examples to support your argument?
3. Again, I don't think writing a summary of the film's plot is necessary. Anyone can find a more accurate synopsis through trailers and advertisements or professional reviews.
I'm not asking for a summary of the film's plot, I'm merely asking for a sense of what it's about. Literally the only reference to this is the one about "growing old and lonely", but you don't tell us about how Leigh dramatises this - or at least not in any useful detail.

And why, if people are expected to have professional reviews to hand to fill in the blanks, should they bother with yours? What are you offering that they haven't already read?
This is a film forum, I don't feel like my opinion needs its entire context to be attached.
Some context would have been nice, if only to see where you're coming from. And you should know by now that if you make sweeping statements without supporting evidence round these parts, you will get challenged!
And to answer your question, I certainly feel that Secrets and Lies, Naked, Happy Go Lucky, and Another Year all have a similar theme of growing old and lonely with at least one of their main characters.
Tonally, these are four very different films. Your dismissive comment about "tired themes" implies otherwise. It's also a real stretch to suggest that the first three films are primarily about "growing old and lonely" (especially in the case of Naked), whereas this is clearly a key theme of Another Year.
4. It means that the sound design adds appropriate emotions to each scene (poignancy) and that it predicates more some of the more courageous admissions and recapitulations of its characters (vigilance).
Yes, but how? Again, you seem remarkably reluctant to back up your claims with supporting evidence!
5. He uses a vast amount of master shots to accompany his closeups, does he not?
Yes. And?
This style is usually utilized for improv,
It's sometimes used for improv, and sometimes not. It certainly doesn't provide any proof one way or another - and wouldn't in this case because Leigh's shoots definitely aren't improvised. This is not some arcane piece of trivia known only to investigative journalists: in fact, it's hard to think of a director more consistently open about his working methods!
though Leigh seems to get more awkward cuts than others. Perhaps they're somehow intentional, though I still don't prefer them (cutting from flat mediums to flat closeups is pretty jarring).
All perfectly fair comments (credit where it's due: a lot more detail than you've offered thus far, though still without specific examples to latch on to), but gravely undermined by the fact that you've drawn entirely the wrong conclusion. And if you're wrong about something so fundamental to the way Leigh works, how seriously should we take your other claims? Especially when you don't give us evidence-backed arguments to support them?

Sorry if this sounds cranky, but you write in a style ("Some other familiar Leigh facets are frequent") that suggests that you'd very much like people to take you seriously - while at the same time offering next to no actual substance for them to get their teeth into.

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James Mills
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#11 Post by James Mills » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:13 pm

MichaelB wrote:It's sometimes used for improv, and sometimes not. It certainly doesn't provide any proof one way or another - and wouldn't in this case because Leigh's shoots definitely aren't improvised. This is not some arcane piece of trivia known only to investigative journalists: in fact, it's hard to think of a director more consistently open about his working methods!
Huh? I thought it was pretty well known that he worked without a script, thus having his characters improvise a lot of their work through repeated rehearsals and character refinement. Where have you read otherwise?

Anyways, my reviews are mainly to catalog my thoughts about what worked and didn't work for me so they can better resonate with me and hopefully be more apt to draw from in my own endeavors with film. I don't mean to sound selfish, but they're not intended to tell you about a movie and then try to persuade you to see it or not. I know I use jargon and theories that are not well explained, but I use them because I completely understand what I'm referencing when I look back on them (I do think that some people might get it as written too). I appreciate your criticism, and I'll definitely keep it in mind if I plan on writer more exhaustively in the future, as you brought up a lot of points that I failed to recognize or even consider.

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#12 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:27 pm

James Mills wrote:Anyways, my reviews are mainly to catalog my thoughts about what worked and didn't work for me so they can better resonate with me and hopefully be more apt to draw from in my own endeavors with film. I don't mean to sound selfish, but they're not intended to tell you about a movie and then try to persuade you to see it or not. I know I use jargon and theories that are not well explained, but I use them because I completely understand what I'm referencing when I look back on them (I do think that some people might get it as written too). I appreciate your criticism, and I'll definitely keep it in mind if I plan on writer more exhaustively in the future, as you brought up a lot of points that I failed to recognize or even consider.
Why put your thoughts in a public forum, then? That's an appropriate way to keep a journal, but if you put something in a discussion page, the idea is that it's meant to be something people can actually discuss, and not an arcane personal shorthand.

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James Mills
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#13 Post by James Mills » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:49 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Why put your thoughts in a public forum, then? That's an appropriate way to keep a journal, but if you put something in a discussion page, the idea is that it's meant to be something people can actually discuss, and not an arcane personal shorthand.
Because I enjoy comparing my opinions to others'. Would you rather me not tell you what I thought about the film if it doesn't go into specific detail about each of my concerns and preferences? I try my best to address any points that people might find confusing, though I'm admittedly a bit sick of ruining threads this way. With that in mind, I'll now retreat from this one.

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#14 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Jan 08, 2011 4:11 pm

James Mills wrote:Would you rather me not tell you what I thought about the film if it doesn't go into specific detail about each of my concerns and preferences?
That is actually the way we prefer it around here. When posting an opinion, try to give as much detail as you can about your reasoning. This is much preferable than fitting your opinion into an attention seeking sentence, for instance. You usually do go into detail when asked, but things here would go more smoothly if you just did that upfront instead of waiting for questions.

I also recommend posting less in general. It's good advice for all new members.

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#15 Post by GaryC » Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:42 pm

James Mills wrote:Huh? I thought it was pretty well known that he worked without a script, thus having his characters improvise a lot of their work through repeated rehearsals and character refinement. Where have you read otherwise?
Michael Coveney's The World According to Mike Leigh and Amy Raphael's Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh, plus the 1982 Arena edition on BBC2 (which accompanied a retrospective of his work to date) which is an extra on the Mike Leigh at the BBC DVD set, amongst others.

His films are developed through improvisations and workshops, working with his actors both individually and collectively and Leigh writes the script based on the results of that. The actual shoot isn't improvised.

(There is an exception to this. The short A Sense of History is a filming of an existing monologue by Jim Broadbent.)

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#16 Post by MichaelB » Sun Jan 09, 2011 5:46 am

James Mills wrote:
MichaelB wrote:It's sometimes used for improv, and sometimes not. It certainly doesn't provide any proof one way or another - and wouldn't in this case because Leigh's shoots definitely aren't improvised. This is not some arcane piece of trivia known only to investigative journalists: in fact, it's hard to think of a director more consistently open about his working methods!
Huh? I thought it was pretty well known that he worked without a script, thus having his characters improvise a lot of their work through repeated rehearsals and character refinement. Where have you read otherwise?
GaryC has already given you plenty of references, to which I'd add just about any interview with Leigh that goes into detail about how he makes films. Improvisation is only used at the project development stage, not after the script has been locked down, and nothing in that Salon article you linked to suggests otherwise.

Granted, you're far from the only person to make the assumption that Leigh shoots without a script, but I suspect that's one of the reasons why he's been so open about his working methods in interviews - because he's rather keen to dispel that impression!
Anyways, my reviews are mainly to catalog my thoughts about what worked and didn't work for me so they can better resonate with me and hopefully be more apt to draw from in my own endeavors with film. I don't mean to sound selfish, but they're not intended to tell you about a movie and then try to persuade you to see it or not. I know I use jargon and theories that are not well explained, but I use them because I completely understand what I'm referencing when I look back on them.
Ah, but will you? I've dug out pieces I wrote 20-25 years ago that also didn't go into any especial detail, and in quite a few cases I didn't have the faintest clue what I was on about and would have needed to watch the film again to be sure. Which won't be a problem with Another Year, but if it's a film that you've never had a chance to see again, it's rather more of a challenge.

And the other reason why it's necessary to provide detailed examples is to let people gauge whether or not your reasoning was sound. You've already demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of Leigh's working methods, and I suspect there's bound to be a cultural gap anyway when dealing with a director whose films are renowned for their minutely detailed observation of specifically British traits. Which makes it even more important to let us know where you're coming from if you're posting in a public forum containing many UK natives - especially those who are still laughing merrily over Armond White's seemingly straight-faced assertion that the Sex Pistols were some kind of forelock-tugging royalist outfit.

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#17 Post by HistoryProf » Sun Feb 06, 2011 12:27 am

It's too bad Mr. Mills ruined this thread. Saw AY today and adored it. Though in typical Leigh fashion he wouldn't let me walk out of the theater w/ a life affirming and buoyant ending. Frankly, I'm not exactly sure why he chose the final shot he did, because it seems to completely shift the axis of the film from the relationship between Broadbent and Ruth Sheen w/ the other characters in orbit about them as they walked through Another Year in their beautifully honed relationship. I don't know....it just seemed strange to end it the way he did.

Lesley Manville is indeed amazing here....just a squirm-inducing performance in so many scenes. Though this was also the source of my one ? as I grew more uncomfortable w/ Mary's dysfunction: why were Tom and Gerri (cute, btw) so quietly acquiescent in her (and Ken's) obvious problems? I couldn't decide if it made the film more genuine or not...would you just sit there and let her go on like she does? Or abet Ken in his self-destruction (would have liked some closure with him too) by just pouring more wine? On the other hand, they'd known these people for decades, and I guess you can slide into relationships like that. But they seemed to border on indifference in a few scenes that didn't fit with the emotion coming from the people around them. But maybe it's an English thing too....dunno. Would love to hear thoughts on the characters though (rather than silly debates about "improvised shooting" and "awkward cuts")...

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#18 Post by MichaelB » Sun Feb 06, 2011 7:17 am

HistoryProf wrote:Though this was also the source of my one ? as I grew more uncomfortable w/ Mary's dysfunction: why were Tom and Gerri (cute, btw) so quietly acquiescent in her (and Ken's) obvious problems? I couldn't decide if it made the film more genuine or not...would you just sit there and let her go on like she does? Or abet Ken in his self-destruction (would have liked some closure with him too) by just pouring more wine? On the other hand, they'd known these people for decades, and I guess you can slide into relationships like that.
Yes, absolutely. I suspect I lack the requisite saint-like patience, but I've seen my wife and my parents continue relationships with people years (possibly decades) after they've lost any real value to them - and they do indeed just sit there and let them go on. Largely because they know by now that there's no advice that they can usefully offer.

Which is also why asking for "closure" is a waste of time - I can't speak for Tom and Gerri, but I know that the people in my life who are saddled with these relationships would dearly love some kind of closure, but they can't engineer it themselves without coming across as the bad guys, which is the last thing they want. So they just sit and listen, occasionally reacting politely, but no more.

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#19 Post by bnowalk » Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:34 pm

Well, to be fair, Tom did offer to go on a trip with Ken, to get him out of his rut and have some fun together. He also challenges Mary to change her perspective on her situation. They said it early on in the first big blowup with Mary: they (Tom/Gerri) can only set the example. So that's what they do throughout the film, try to offer a model of modest pleasure to all their lonely friends, like--forgive me--they can show them the door, but they can't push them through.

I hadn't read much about Another Year before seeing it or writing about it, but I was shocked afterward to find out how many people found Tom/Gerri smug or vampire-like in the way they feed off their social circle. Whereas that "set the example" conversation really struck me, in part because I agree, so what others see as complacency I saw as perfectly defensible demonstration. Like how a therapist doesn't tell you what to do (and remember, Gerri is a professional counselor).

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#20 Post by cantinflas » Sun Feb 06, 2011 6:50 pm

It's this "setting the example" attitude that is extremely patronising. I left the cinema feeling positive about Tom and Gerri's resolute companionship but it was only upon reflection that I started to feel uneasy about them. There's a kind of insidiousness to the way they interact with people and I think Leigh uses the hideously whimsical music and sledge hammer seasonal chapters structure beautifully against them. It emphatically illustrates this ridiculously idealised life they have of tending to their co-op garden plot along with throwing dinner parties in their all too perfectly rustic suburban home. Being in that house constantly subjected to this underhanded therapy would have the complete oppositive effect of healing, as evidenced by Mary, Ken and Ronnie in perpetual decline. And that's the way they like it. Tom and Gerri are definitely from the same lineage as Keith and Candice Marie in Leigh's brilliant Nuts in May.

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#21 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Feb 06, 2011 6:56 pm

Completely agree. Personally, I was surprised how some critics (I think one of EW's in particular) actually complimented Tom and Gerri as being in a state of "grace." It's been a while, but someone implied a similar idea to Mike Leigh at the NYFF, calling Tom and Gerri "perfect," and Leigh promptly tore the guy to shreds (which was a surprise in itself, given how polite he was for most of the evening).

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#22 Post by HistoryProf » Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:40 am

MichaelB wrote:Which is also why asking for "closure" is a waste of time...
Closure wasn't the right word. It's just that w/ Ken he takes the train in, we gather he's an old friend, they have a very uncomfortable weekend together, and he leaves. No word on that trip, or anything else. Just would have been nice to see him again one way or another. He was obviously an important person to Tom and Gerri.

And I appreciate the discussion of perceptions of T&G lying between seeing them in a state of grace and as a vampiric couple feeding off the pain of others. I saw Gerri as a Counselor in profession who was actively trying not to be one in her social life, while also taking the stance that people need to hit their own bottom, and there's no point in confronting them until they do. but she just seemed so indifferent....while Tom, i guess the best term for his manner is aloof. He just kind of floats about, works a lot, and finally breaks through with the situation with his brother.

I liked the film quite a bit...I just found the ending interesting and had trouble discerning what Leigh was trying to say here.
I was surprised how some critics (I think one of EW's in particular) actually complimented Tom and Gerri as being in a state of "grace." It's been a while, but someone implied a similar idea to Mike Leigh at the NYFF, calling Tom and Gerri "perfect," and Leigh promptly tore the guy to shreds
That's quite interesting...what did Leigh say?

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#23 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:56 am

Can only paraphrase, but Leigh basically went "Is THAT what you think? If you honestly believe that, I have nothing to say to you."

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#24 Post by MoonlitKnight » Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:44 pm

This is, I guess, middle-of-the-road Mike Leigh; not as memorable as "Naked" or "Happy-Go-Lucky," but more enjoyable than the overrated "Secrets and Lies" and "Topsy-Turvy." It's a travesty Lesley Manville didn't get an Oscar nod, since she's essentially the glue that holds the film together and it likely would not have worked as well without her. #-o

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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#25 Post by Grand Illusion » Sat Feb 12, 2011 7:42 pm

And on the contrary to many of the negative Tom and Gerri interpretations here, in the new Film Comment interview, the interviewer asks about Tom and Gerri's extraordinary patience. To which Leigh responds, "More than you or I would have."

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