I had never seen any of Mike Leigh’s films before, but someone suggested that I should see Another Year so I figured there was no harm in giving it a rental. The film comes off as a rather interesting character study of several people that have different experiences with life and therefore have different outlooks on life. That and the suggestion from someone else convinced me that I definitely needed to see this film and now in retrospect, I am certainly glad that I did.
In the first 20 minutes the viewer is introduced to a married couple named Tom and Gerri. Believe it or not, the cartoon reference is even used during the film. Tom and Gerri have been married for the better part of their lives and are approaching retirement age. They each have a good job, a respectable house, and a large garden or allotment as they call it. The film begins in the spring and takes us through each season for a year, hence the the title Another Year. The two have one son named Joe who is 30 that they anxiously want to marry off so they can have grandchildren. This all sounds rather two dimensional until we learn about some of Tom and Gerri’s friends.
Mary works with Gerri and is convinced that her life cannot get any worse. Mary is still dwelling on a divorce that occurred a decade before and she hasn’t been able to maintain a healthy relationship since. Mary doesn’t really know how to handle herself so she ends up talking all the time and it’s usually about nothing. To make matters worse, she is an extreme alcoholic who becomes extremely depressed when she drinks. Gerri has quietly looked after Mary for years, but she is beginning to feel that Mary will never get out of her depressive rut without some much needed help. It also doesn’t help that Mary has had a crush on their son Joe for years.
Tom’s friend Ken has also been divorced for years and has an alcohol and eating problem. Tom really wants to help Ken, but he doesn’t understand how to do that. When Tom and Gerri decide to have a barbecue with several friends over, including Mary and Ken, Tom thinks that maybe the two might work for each other. This however proves to be disastrous and Ken decides to go back home so that he can stay out of Tom and Gerri’s way.
After several months into the story Joe finally meets a woman named Katie. He announces to his parents and Mary that they are getting married in a few months, but the audience is meant to feel bittersweet about this because we can see that this has hurt Mary significantly. This causes her to drop into a deeper state of depression where she simply doesn’t know what to do with herself. Tom and Gerri are out of options and simply realize that they must continue to take each day at a time and remember that they have each other.
Another Year works on many levels. Not only does the viewer become worried about Tom and Gerri’s friends, but there is also the emotional attachment to Tom and Gerri in itself. One might begin to wonder if the couple really deserves so much stress and anxiety in their life, but at the same time they are really helping people that need the comfort and reinforcement. My only real complaint about the film is the fact that some scenes seem to drag causing the pacing to be thrown off, but other than that I was extremely pleased overall. The script is well written and the acting is top notch. Other than possibly The King’s Speech, this is probably the best dramatic piece I ‘ve seen from 2010.
Another Year comes to Blu-ray looking very much like you would expect. Colors are well saturated even during the winter scenes, but many of the sequences look deliberately washed out as if Leigh was trying to convey sadness to the audience. Flesh tones seem to be accurate without any problems though. Grain is moderate and remains even and consistent throughout the entire film. There is no evidence of DNR or EE and the feature maintains a film-like look from start to finish. Fine detail is well done, especially in the film’s closeups. However, there are several softer shots scattered throughout the film that kind of threw me off. Other than these these couple minor nitpicks, Another Year looks good.
Another Year comes equipped with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, but be advised that this is almost entirely a front centered mix. Dialogue is usually clear and understandable in the center channel, but there are a few instances of soft spoken lines that are slightly difficult to hear. Surrounds are used exclusively for the film’s musical score and other than a few other subdued ambient sounds they are largely silent. Of course since this is a dramatic piece you can forget your sub-woofer joining the presentation. This is not a poor mix by any means, but you’ll probably want to choose something else if you want to work your surround system.
The provided supplemental package for Another Year is slightly disappointing, but it does at least come with a decent audio commentary from Mike Leigh, the director, and Lesley Manville. There is also two 12 minute making of features. The first is a standard making of feature that focuses on interviews with the director and main actors. The second is similar to the first, but features several of the crew talking about Leigh’s method of directing on top of the actors. Unfortunately, both of the above features are presented in 480p.
If you’re looking for an excellent dramatic piece with a great story and superb acting then Another Year is definitely for you. It’s an incredibly strong film and one of 2010’s strongest dramas. If you’re a fan of film, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.
Another Year is emotionally captivating with excellent acting and a well written script.