May 10, 2011

Another Year

In the overall scheme of things, Another Year is probably minor Mike Leigh – in its evocations of, for some, the threat or reality of adult loneliness (not a widely told story in cinema), it reminded me of Leigh’s relatively unsung Career Girls more than anything else -- but I appreciated its minimalism and its symmetry. We know that the Leigh process is about workshopping both characters and scenario -- this time, clearly around a four-season structure and meal-time conversation settings – and the process can have its risks (characters that get to the edge of caricature) but Another Year seems to be a film made with real human sympathy and expecting no less from us. While it may seem slight and undemanding as you watch it, you should reflect on it for a long time afterwards: what is Leigh’s position on happiness, especially as this comes straight after the pathologically positive Happy-Go-Lucky? It can run like a test on the audience, as it does on some of the characters: will you feel contempt or will you feel pity? And despite all the misconceptions about “realism”, there is artistry here: I really wanted to illustrate this with a still of cinematographer Dick Pope’s lovely set-up of the cold front room in Derby before the funeral, early in part four – which is of course winter. But none seem to exist.