Thursday, May 19, 2011

A spring evening at the movies - Another Year

The season has begun at our small town independent theatre. It is a wonderful old place with wood floors and tin ceilings. As I've written before, Tom is the volunteer projectionist/ticket taker at the Wednesday evening half-price show.

In the brilliant Mike Leigh's newest film, Another Year, we meet Tom and Gerri Hepple, who have been together since their university days. The actors, Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen are so very perfect that you kind of forget they aren't the characters.

They live a quiet, gentle, enviably happy life. He is an engineering geologist - 'he digs holes' says Gerri, who is a counselor. They adore their son, played by Oliver Maltman, as he does them. Tom and Gerri let him live his own life without interference, and with humor. They are that rarity in films and books, a really happy, loving family. They are not extinct. In my rather small circle, I know many such families.

Yet, we all know people who are not so lucky. The saddest case in the Hepple's circle is Gerri's co-worker, Mary who is quite desperately lonely and cannot hide her loneliness even from strangers. She talks too much and drinks too much. She latches on where she shouldn't. She tries everyone's patience. Mary is played brilliantly by Lesley Manville. We feel sorry for her, while at the same time we can't stand her. Tom's childhood friend Ken, played by Peter Wight, is quite as troubled, though not as offensive. We can't help but worry about his physical health as he over drinks, smokes, and eats. He must continually wipe the sweat off his face during a meal.

The film begins in spring and takes us through the year. Just 'another year' with all the ordinary, happy, and sad occurrences. We see Gerri and Tom working on their allotment. They are deeply contented there, growing their vegetables, tending the soil, enjoying the weather.

And their London place is wonderful, wonderful. There is a cozy, welcoming living room and a kitchen that isn't just a showplace. Tom and Gerri both like to cook, and you see 'stuff' all over the counters, just like in real life. Don't you get sick of the sterile, every-one-looks-the-same kitchens in the magazines? Well, I do. Their kitchen is a kitchen that is full of love -the love between the couple and their love of food.

And the backyard is what we dream of. It is lush and beautiful, with sitting areas, a tree house, a swing.

Each season brings encounters with family and friends; some we meet just once while others we see more often. There is love and loss. The people who are sad don't magically become happy. But those who are happy don't become sad either. Around the internet I've seen some great descriptions of this film. The Daily Mail says,
It's love, actually, for Tom and Gerri as Mike Leigh does The Good Life
While St. Louis Today notes,
Another Year is a mature ode to joy
There is a review here which I just love. And one from Roger Ebert.

You may visit the official site for a trailer, and more information.

Not everyone loves the film. I have read of some resentment against the couple; that they are too good to be true, and are condescending toward their friends. I don't buy it. I think they are very real. It isn't fashionable to be content. In another film, Tom would have cheated on his wife. In fact, I was waiting for it. Waiting for a flirtatious gesture, a touch that did not happen. There is no jealousy between the husband and wife because there is no need for it. Mary is sort of a friend, but I thought she was more of an acquaintance that Tom and Gerri must put up with a few times a year. And Ken is a friend from 40 years ago, which doesn't necessarily mean the men have much in common these days. I thought Tom and Gerri did their best for these sad souls, without letting them overcome their own joy in life. Mostly Tom and Gerri are the unit, the friends. They are happy together. Their great joy aside from their marriage comes from their son, and the new girlfriend he brings to the house. Katie is a great character by the way, with a humorous outlook on life. She is played by Karina Fernandez, and you can just see the laughter in her eyes.

And this isn't one of those families who are the unit and anyone who comes in is an outsider. She is immediately accepted both for who she is, and for the joy she is bringing to Joe.

Every minute of this film felt real. The people look real. They don't have face lifts and eye repair and dyed hair. We see the characters as they are - most of them people around 60 years old. This is how we look, kids. I am so, so tired of seeing people doing everything they can to not look their ages. But you know what? We all can tell. We know how old someone is. I greatly prefer seeing the authentic person, with sagging face and gray hair. Gerri speaks of herself once as having 'middle-age spread' and her dear husband jumps right in saying how beautiful she is. And she is. She wears clothes that suit her just perfectly. I think it would be much better for young people to see older ones as they really are. It doesn't do any of us a bit of good to try and hide aging. It makes kids think that aging is a bad thing, and it makes the older ones look plain silly. When I was a girl, I looked up to older people. Maybe if we who are now older behaved in an age-appropriate way, and looked age-appropriate perhaps younger ones would look up to us, instead of seeing people who glorify youth so much they spend money to look younger. Did your grammy seem less appealing to you because she had wrinkles and a big belly? I think not. I think she was comfortable to be with. When we are young we see through the eyes of love.

There's a great scene where Ken is bemoaning that the pubs are full of loud young people, while Tom reminds him that he used to be one. And that's the way life goes. We aren't the same at 60 as we were at 20. And I say, thank goodness. As does Mike Leigh in this marvelous, excellent film, which just may be the best one I've ever seen.


  1. I think of wrinkles as the physical roadmap to a person's life.

    And I've got some grey hair that I don't dye, but I admit I may be considering something neon when my hair gets mostly grey -- just to liven things up for a little while, you understand. ;)

  2. Well, I can't wait to see this, Nan! And I hadn't heard of it before....

  3. "It isn't fashionable to be content" true!!! But, we also know many couples who are, and who have a happy (not perfect) family life. This sounds like my kind of film, (I do envy you that lovely sounding theatre and half price tickets toboot!!!)
    Surely the library or our film rental place will have it???fingers crossed!

    Also love the ever changing header pictures, Nan.

  4. This one has my interest and yes, I like that their kitchen looks "real."

  5. Nan, sounds like a really interesting movie!

  6. Sounds like a good movie. I will try to see it. Thanks for the review.

  7. This sounds awesome Nan. I've so enjoyed some outdoor summer theaters in a few towns where we have lived. Thanks for posting the pictures as well.

  8. This one goes on my Netflix queue. Thanks, Nan.

  9. This sounds so very good, and it's not showing near me and the dvd that can be ordered is a blu-ray which is not the player I have........Sad....Perhaps netflix will stream it? Unlikely.

  10. The pictures, especially the first one and the one in the kitchen as well as the one of Gerri and Mary, really look like someone's private snapshots taking at their friends' or relatives' house, nothing like the typical stills from a movie, mise-en-scène type.
    And I so agree with you about the age thing. My parents are in their mid/late sixties, and they both look good without resorting to "tricks" to hide their true age. My mum is still beautiful and my dad looks healthy with his tan from working in the garden and white hair and good skin.
    You are right, being happy is not fashionable - people wonder what's wrong with you if you do not have marriage trouble, burn-out syndrome or some sort of addiction or other health problem to struggle with.
    Well, I rather am in my unfashionable happy life than anywhere or anyone else :-)

  11. Fabulous review, Nan!! I just added the film to my queue. I can hardly wait. And from what I saw in the photo, I'm in love with the kitchen. It reminds me of Judy & Lyle's in As Time Goes By.

  12. That's great, sprite! Love the neon idea!

    Kristi, I think you'll like it.

    Niki, it is out on dvd, so you should be able to see it. Such a good, good film.

    Staci, I may even paint mine like it!

    Sherri and Lisa, it is fantastic.

    Diane, it's great because it shows movies the 'regular' theatres often don't.

    Mary Lois, it is really so fine.

    Kristi, on the Netflix site it says 'DVD and Blu-ray from 6/7/11'

    Librarian, you and your folks would enjoy this. I kind of picture them like the characters in the movie, going to their allotment. That's interesting what you wrote about 'snapshots' and it is exactly right. This is a movie about the ordinary people.

    Les, it is a wonderful space.

  13. Since I'll be 71 next week, you just made my day. I'm going to look for this movie because I'm tired of dysfunctional families and actresses with so many facelifts and Botox injections they have no expressions anymore. I hope my natural face and hair color show my life story and my character. Wouldn't touch my smile lines for anything. Thanks for this review.

  14. This looks like a movie I'd like.

  15. I've just seen and enjoyed tremendously Nanny McPhee returns, so there is my current speed.
    This will be perfect for next up.
    And I sure chime in with you about the kitchens. I find myself apologizing for my kitchen because it is so dated;basic. No more!
    Thanks for the rouzing review

  16. Well, I'm delighted, Barbara! It's such a great film.

    Karla, I think you'll like the movie.

    Julie, it's a little different from Nanny M. :<)

  17. This sounds absolutely wonderful, Nan. I can't wait to see it at some point. Probably on Netflix. But I have patience. :)

    Thanks for writing about it.

  18. Yvette, it's available from N. in a couple weeks. So, so good.

  19. Nan, you've convinced me this is one that must be seen. It was a wonderful review. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  20. Thank you, Mary. I hope you'll be able to see it. Great film.

  21. Imagine - a film about people who are normal and happy with no infidelities, etc.? I can't imagine it. I'll just have to see it. I'm glad I caught your review or I would have missed this movie.

  22. Margot, It is so very excellent. I hope you get to see it.

  23. I think Mike Leigh is a genius, I haven't seen this one it looks as though it is one of his best.
    I do so agree about the ageing thing.
    Love the new header.

  24. My favourite movie so far this year! So real, often heartbreakingly so. My husband and I left the theatre grateful to have each other!

    Oh, I wrote about it here... if you'd like to see....

    Happy Weekend Nan!
    Mrs. Bale is on tonight!!

  25. Feel-good movies are marvellous .... and essential weekend viewing .
    And a well made feel-good film is a treasure ! I must hunt for it .

  26. This sounds like a great movie. I've just added it to my Netflix. Thanks a bunch!

  27. Carole, I hope you get to see it. So, so good.

    Pamela, thank you for giving me the link. I shall be over to read it.

    Smitonius and Sonata, this movie is a treasure. It isn't always 'feel good' but it is really wonderful.

    Kay, I'll be interested to hear what you think.

  28. Ernestine, I hope you get to see it.

  29. thank you so much for this review. I did not know about this film and will now see if I can get hold of it. Mike Leigh featured on a radio programme a week or so ago on Radio 3 here in the Uk and chose music that he loved. He loves Gilbert & Sullivan which endeared him to me even more!

  30. Elaine, it is just perfect! Have you seen ML's Topsy-Turvy? And there's a great book I read years ago by Christopher Hibbert about G&S called, Gilbert and Sullivan and Their Victorian World.

  31. I will be looking for these two movies you've written about, Nan :) And will try the rhubarb recipe.
    Checking in at your blog is like a long chat on the phone w/ my old pal!
    An also be at a poetry reading. xx

  32. Marty! I'm so, so happy whenever I see your name here. Oh, thank you for your nice words, dear one.

  33. I adore this kind of movie and you are so fortunate to have this wonderful movie theater in your area!!

    We are sadly lacking in such cultural opportunities here in "big city" Fort Myers, but when we get back to Oregon we'll visit the local independent theater often. (It's called the Bijou, don't you love that?) .. It would be wonderful if this movie were to be playing there this summer; one can always dream!

  34. Sallie, there are actually quite a few little independent theatres around - one in town, one in the next state about 1/2 hour away, and another in a city about 1 1/2 hours away. We are lucky to have it. They offer live entertainment too. I tried to find the Bijou online but only came up with one in the Children's Museum. Is that the one?


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