Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another Year, by Mike Leigh

There was quite a lot of bemused laughter from the audience as this movie come to an end, with the camera taking a long, lingering shot of Mary (Lesley Manville). Maybe I joined the dots in an odd way, but it made perfect sense to finish with Mary, as the movie seemed to be her story. After all, the movie started with an otherwise random character, Janet, complaining of sleeplessness and being told by Geri (Ruth Sheen) that insomnia is not a disease, just a symptom. By the end of the movie, its Mary who can't sleep. I bet Geri, Tom (Jim Broadbent) and their son, Joe (Oliver Maltman) have no problems - in fact, there are several scenes where Tom and Geri are nice and cosy in their bed.
In some quarters, they might be called smug marrieds

and Mary is their less fortunate friend.

As I watched her, I was thinking of Poppy in Happy Go Lucky. Poppy is young, attractive, continuously cheerful in a way that is more than a front. Mary is older, still attractive
but for her it is harder to maintain the appearance of happiness. She works hard at it, and so comes across as a bit over the top and ditzy. Love, even friendship, has proven elusive for her but she has been lucky to have her good friends, Tom and Geri. She's a constant visitor to their house, has a bit to drink, stays over but ultimately there's only so much you can hope for from friends. When it becomes clear that she's interested in starting something with Joe, the shutters start to go down. When Joe finds a girlfriend, Katie (Karina Fernandez), Mary has a lot of trouble processing it and there's quite a split. The movie traverses the four seasons and they seem keyed to her mood, finishing in the winter of her despondency.


I felt for Mary: although its natural for people to put their family first, it hurts to live one's life knowing that there is no-one for whom you are the person who will be put first and its hard to maintain the hope or illusion that anyone ever will: she's lonely Manville is reported as saying that loneliness is a base ingredient in Mary's life). That was her predicament and, really, there was nothing particularly wrong about Mary that she should have to live through it. If the edge could have been taken off her hunger, who knows how she might have been? She was still able to keep things together much better than Tom's old mate Ken (Peter Wight) and lacked the anger of Tom's nephew Carl (Martin Savage). She was even able to prod taciturn old Ronnie (David Bradley) into opening up, just a little. She does try independence, even gets a car (bought it from a pair of brothers, one had a gold tooth, insisted on cash) but it doesn't go very well - essentially the car is a pile of crap and she ends up selling it to a wreckers for 20 quid. Gloriously, she spends the proceeds on a bottle of champagne and drinks the lot.


Not saying that she and Joe should have got together: she's known him since he was a wee boy thanks to being Geri's workmate and Katie did seem to be a great fit - the humour between her and Joe's family showed how good a fit she was. Nor am I saying that they should have done more for Mary, as their kindness wasn't actually doing her all that much good, it possibly diverted her from working harder at meeting people. Mind you, Mike Leigh himself has said that the film is about the issue, "which is when you are generous to somebody and they overstep the mark, where do you draw the line?" What does he know?

The acting was superb, as in all Mike Leigh movies I've seen. This is a bit surprising actually: Lesley Manville has now been in seven of his movies, been in loads of TV and theatrical productions (which I'm sure she will have done well) and yet looks like she was born to play the part of Mary.

2 Comments:

Blogger Tung said...

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11:26 PM  
Blogger Tung said...

Wherever you go
Whatever you do
I will be right here waiting for you
Whatever it takes
Or how my heart breaks
I will be right here waiting for you

I took for granted, all the times
That I thought would last somehow
I hear the laughter, I taste the tears
But I can't get near you now
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11:39 PM  

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