Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

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HistoryProf
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#26 Post by HistoryProf » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:17 pm

Grand Illusion wrote: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."
But why? That's what I can't come to terms with...what is he saying with them?

Grand Illusion
Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2007 7:56 am

Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#27 Post by Grand Illusion » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:21 pm

HistoryProf wrote:
Grand Illusion wrote: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."
But why? That's what I can't come to terms with...what is he saying with them?
I walked out with a simple melancholy feeling that it's unavoidable how happiness can come so easily to some people and with so much more difficulty to others. I know there's more nuance than that, but I find it to be the overriding feeling that I have when I return to this film.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#28 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:25 pm

What I found so striking about the film is how Tom and Gerri share similar fears and anxieties to their friends, but have learned to compartmentalize those fears and deal with them in more socially acceptable ways (for example, Tom's brief reasoning for why he has started to enjoy reading about history or his declaration that he won't be around when the sewer project is completed). There is frustration under the surface, exemplified in the scene where Tom puts on a good face when both his wife and son interrupt his earnest attempt to explain his job to the son's new girlfriend. The wife and son see this as an opportunity to poke fun at Tom and he goes along with the joking briefly despite the fact that he doesn't want to belittle what he does. As the film progresses, we see both Tom and Gerri slowly lose their patience with the behavior of their friends and relatives. Specifically, Gerri is willing to tolerate, even coddle, Mary up until it becomes obvious that Mary could very well endanger the son's new relationship; at that point, Mary has crossed the line with Gerri and doesn't even recognize it.

ANOTHER YEAR is not so black-and-white as to present Tom and Gerri as a perfect couple. Circumstances and co-dependent relationships have taken a toll on their lives, but they weather the more overt neurosis of their friends and family while trying very hard to keep a lid on their own.

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puxzkkx
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#29 Post by puxzkkx » Thu Mar 03, 2011 6:21 pm

I totally agree with cantinflas re: Tom & Gerri. Some very unorganized thoughts here, but I just wanted to pinpoint how Tom and Gerri came across as the least likeable/admirable characters in the film for me:

What I find interesting is that people are actually recognizing the Tom and Gerri relationship/characters as "perfect"/"above" the other characters and their relationships. They seem to be happy, sure, but I think said happiness is more a product of wilful ignorance than anything. The opening scene with Staunton automatically underlines Gerri as a therapist, and one of those therapists with that obnoxious drive to counsel outside of the office. However, it is clear that what she has to offer is sympathy, pat reassurance, not empathy (so apparent in Gerri's final one-on-one conversation with Mary - 'seek help'). This carries over to Tom as well, and even to Joe, although in the former's case I think he's really in his own little world, in the latter's case I get the feeling he wants to distance himself from a family that would have observed pain and trauma with a 'compassionate eye' rather than sharing in it and helping it heal, but is ashamed enough about this urge to return season after season. Notice their reactions at Linda's funeral. None of them seem truly upset (this was Tom's sister-in-law, for god's sake! Joe's aunt!), but maybe they've just compartmentalized their negative emotion in an attempt to avoid dealing with it. Gerri has the nerve to tell Ronnie "this is the hardest stage", Tom says "Ronnie's had a huge shock" - not heartbreak, a shock - Joe texts in another room while Ronnie stews in the unacknowledged emotional products of huge loss. And yet all three disparage Carl, a flawed character for sure, but one who shows a genuine, outward emotional response to this event.

There is a real sinister kind of vampirism in the way they connect with their 'friends' - perhaps surrounding themselves with these damaged people is truly a passive-aggressive act. As they say themselves, they try to "set an example". Even in the brief snippets of conversation we witness between Tom and Gerri when they're alone, there seems to be a disconnect. They've been together for ages, of course, but there's still a 'business meeting' tone to their dinner table exchanges, and I detected a disconnect there (maybe I'm overanalyzing - but Gerri drinks white in bed, Tom drinks red ;)). Mary and Ken might be more noticeably flawed than many of the other characters, but they (esp. in Mary's case) wear their hearts on their sleeves, betraying their feelings without really knowing what they're doing. With Mary, especially, there's a searing sincerity completely absent from Tom and Gerri's duplicitous behaviour in a social context. Even Katie, probably one of the "nicest" characters in the film (see how she tries to connect with everyone, even Mary, repeatedly despite being shot down, in their first meeting), bows easily to peer pressure - the repetition of her "oh, no!" gestures (clutching the throat, exaggerated looks of shock, the whole 'noose' gesture) when she visits he house for the second time, seem more like a way of asserting herself on Gerri's wavelength than a revelation of true personal feeling. One wonders how much she was really bothered by Mary's behaviour.

I did really love this film. I've always been a Leigh fan and it is cool to see how his movement away from "political filmmaking" with this film and Happy-Go-Lucky is bringing him to some interesting and powerful places.

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HistoryProf
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#30 Post by HistoryProf » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:50 am

Roger Ryan wrote: ANOTHER YEAR is not so black-and-white as to present Tom and Gerri as a perfect couple. Circumstances and co-dependent relationships have taken a toll on their lives, but they weather the more overt neurosis of their friends and family while trying very hard to keep a lid on their own.
I see what you did there.

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jbeall
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#31 Post by jbeall » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:27 pm

puxzkkx wrote:What I find interesting is that people are actually recognizing the Tom and Gerri relationship/characters as "perfect"/"above" the other characters and their relationships. They seem to be happy, sure, but I think said happiness is more a product of wilful ignorance than anything.
I just finished watching AY--loved it--and am intrigued by the discussion here. I'm having a little trouble with your interpretation of Tom and Gerri as "vampiric," but I agree that they're hardly saints. What made Happy-go-Lucky so fascinatingly subversive was the way it showed just how much misery and awfulness you have to overlook in order to maintain such a relentlessly positive attitude, and I'd regard this film as a similar exploration of that theme. I think Tom and Gerri have reached a certain level of resignation in their lives. After all, when they talk about work, Gerri indicates on a couple of occasions that her work is often unsuccessful, so it's absolutely necessary for her well-being that she compartmentalize. When they discuss politics in the first dinner w/Mary, Tom's clearly an old liberal who's long resigned to complaining about the current state of things rather than pursuing any active involvement. Tom's relationship with his brother is also interesting: for all Tom's ability to "float above" a situation, Ronnie represents the negative side of that, completely withdrawn into himself and unable even to put on an affable air that might help him connect with people.

Gerri sees Mary's crush on Joe (perhaps she's seen it coming for a long time?), but she's rather diffident and passive in how she deals with it, at first sending him off to get her more wine during the bbq; it's precisely because she doesn't address the issue, when it's obvious enough that Mary doesn't take hints, that Mary causes a scene and they have to freeze her out. But frankly, I can't criticize T&G too much because Mary's behavior is SO inappropriate and awkward that I think most people would have a hard time confronting the issue.

On the other hand, T&G have found some things (such as their allotment) that give them genuine pleasure, and being resigned to one's lot in life, esp. as one's getting on in years (and the title is Another Year rather than simply "A Year") isn't the worst thing that can happen. In other words, while I think it's fair to be critical of T&G, they're hardly bad people.

LavaLamp
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#32 Post by LavaLamp » Tue Feb 11, 2014 4:25 pm

Just watched Another Year on BD. This is the first time I've seen this - and, of all the Leigh films I've seen, this is definitely the most depressing.

Though I know a lot of analysis here is focused on Tom & Gerri, to me the film was more about the unhappy Mary, Ken, Tom's brother William & his son Carl - IMHO, T&G were there to serve as observers of these characters.

The most fascinating & pathetic character in the film was Mary; her neediness/desparation was palpable, and made her interactions with the other characters quite awkward. I agree that she was one of those people that you may have known for years & just keep the "friendship" up out of habit, even though you may have nothing in common with the person anymore (if you ever did).
SpoilerShow
Like other Leigh films, the tone/vibe was critical. In the case of AY, it was very telling when Carl angrily stomped around during his mother's wake (it seemed like he was on something), criticized his father, then stormed out. Later, when Mary asked William if Carl was married, he said he didn't know...It was obvious there was a rift between Carl & his parent(s)?! at some point in the past, but you never found out what actually happened...Nor do you need to...IMHO it's the tone of these scenes that is most important here.
The only real humorous part of the film was when Ken was at the outside garden party with a glass of wine/beer in his hand, and you could see that his shirt clearly said, Stop Thinking...Start Drinking :lol:
Last edited by LavaLamp on Tue Feb 11, 2014 5:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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warren oates
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#33 Post by warren oates » Tue Feb 11, 2014 5:39 pm

I think you're exactly right about Tom & Gerri. Though they're set up in what seems like it ought to be the position of protagonists, there really aren't any stakes or big decisions for them. There's nothing much they want or must face. And they don't really drive the narrative. Not even in their relative passivity. For me they function as point of view characters.

Mary seems about as close to something like a protagonist as this actors' workshop of a film can manage -- She's the one with the biggest problem, the one who suffers the most, the one who, it would seem, needs to change or at least come to some kind of realization.

What's wrong with Mary, though? As far as I can tell, it's something on the order of the existential blahs. Not really depression or alcoholism, but a tendency to feel a little blue most days and to drink a little much sometimes. She's got something like a chronic low level subclinical dysthymia. But she doesn't seem to want to acknowledge it. And I'd wager that's in large part because her condition hasn't become painful enough or significantly disruptive enough to force her to deal with it. Which is also why it's so boring to watch. We get it in 5 minutes. We're really feeling it in 10. In 20-30 minutes it's become monotonous. And there's nothing more to learn because things don't get better or worse for her and she doesn't make things bad enough for anyone else to step in.

Mary at her worst hardly warrants an intervention. She has to push awfully far in the film even to be gently scolded. And unlike the protagonists of Naked or Happy Go Lucky, Mary doesn't embody an extreme worldview that's being tested by her interactions with the rest of the world.

The movie to be made about Mary exists somewhere in the future, where her problems get much worse and force her to do something, to make some kind of choice.

Otherwise, we're left with a flailing attempt to capture something vaguely Chekhovian or Ozu-esque about the nature of ordinary loneliness and everyday life in a long-term relationship. Sadness at the fleeting nature of things, the inevitability of change and such. But this narrative, these characters -- most especially the friend Mary -- could hardly be more poorly suited to the task. You can see this in the way the film really doesn't know how to end, so unsure is it still of what it's actually about. Which is why I really don't find the film depressing. It hasn't actually earned its rights to the heavy themes it aspires to because it hasn't dramatized them.

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ianthemovie
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Re: Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

#34 Post by ianthemovie » Wed Jan 15, 2020 11:30 am

I had the pleasure of revisiting this film earlier this week and I think it stands as one of Leigh's most complex and ambiguous films. I reread this thread and still find it difficult to know what to make of Gerri and Tom. Leigh seems to be at the very least sympathetic to them, as he is to all of his characters (I don't buy the claim that they're "vampiric," for example), and they "mean well," but they do have their moments of smugness. I'm thinking especially of the final scene between the two women, where Gerri turns quite cold on Mary and essentially tells her that she will always put her family above their friendship. Even though they immediately reconcile, and even if Mary does deserve to be called on her bad behavior, I find that moment very telling, and chilling. Gerri invokes her privilege as a woman with a husband and a son over the unmarried, childless Mary, effectively "putting her in her place" while at the same time appearing to act out of care. That's as good example of Leigh's incisiveness and subtlety as any in his work.

"Another Year": will the next year be the one that Mary "gets help" and turns her life around? Or will she go on being miserable because (to quote the Imelda Staunton character from the beginning), "nothing ever changes"? Is Mary's unhappiness, and Tom and Gerri's happiness, a matter of outlook? It's also easy for Tom and Gerri to be happy because, to state the obvious, they're in a loving, committed, comfortable relationship from which they benefit both financially and emotionally. (As a single women Mary mentions being financially restricted as well as lonely.) Happiness seems to beget happiness and vice versa--it becomes very difficult to break out of those cycles especially as the characters age, become more set in their ways, and as options (for attracting partners, for changing careers, relocating, etc.) become scarcer. Personally I see this as a quite grim film.

It occurred to me upon this viewing that Mary is not so much desperate for a romantic partner as she is desperate to be part of a happy family, and that this motivates her attraction to Tom and Gerri's son more than any actual romantic desire for him. She is envious, however unconsciously, of Tom and Gerri's life and wants that for herself. When she's rejected by the son and reminded that she will never "really" be part of the family, she begins to entertain a slight flirtation with Tom's brother (made all the more absurdly funny because he's a recent widower). She notes that he even looks a bit like Tom, as if to say if she can't have Tom or his son she'll consider settling for the brother! (Leigh and his actors do just the right amount of "suggesting" here without overplaying it; there is some quiet humor in that scene, but it's dominated by Mary and Ronnie's shared melancholy and loneliness.)

I hope Leigh is able to get back to making more of these social comedy-dramas before his career is finished as I think he's much better at them than at period pictures like Peterloo and Mr. Turner, whatever the merits of those films may be.

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