Is it me? Or is Mike Leigh’s Another Year a pig in a poke?

11 Nov

Fabulous trailer; wonderful music; beautiful poster and amazing advance notices: in short, I was willing to like Mike Leigh’s Another Year: wanting to like it: waiting to like it. So why did I leave feeling I’d been sold a pig in a poke?

It certainly wasn’t the acting. As well as possessing unerring instinct in choosing his cast, Mike Leigh coaxes superlative performances from them. Another Year brings home how flat many films are; radiating, as it does, a warmth and depth that make you forget the screen. However, the excellence of the acting and the obvious care put into the film made their squandering on such a schematic tale even harder to take.

Basically my reaction was one of huge disappointment mixed with a little anger. Actually make that quite a lot of anger. “Life’s not always kind, is it?” asks Gerri. Well, I think most of us are aware of that, but I’m not sure middle-class marriage and an allotment are the answer. Or that marital status is an effective talisman either way.

I just wish there had been some balance – one friend in an unhappy marriage, say; or one who was happily single. And that the film had offered some depth and subtlety in its portrayal of Mary. Although Leigh has stated, ‘I think the film is sympathetic… I don’t think it shows Mary in a mean spirit.’ (See Brian Brooks in IndieWire) I’d question that claim in light of her scenes with Ken and Joe.

And, as Alistair Harkness points out in the Scotsman: that the film seems to suggest ‘the only choices facing a good-looking single woman edging into her mid-fifties seem to be humiliation, unappetising companionship or alcohol-fueled loneliness says a lot about how cruelly the film treats her.’

Even as a non-smoking, shamefully lightweight drinker, I left the cinema wanting a large whiskey and a cigarette (fags and alcohol being the lazy shorthand for sad sacks in the film) in solidarity with life’s losers. At least as Leigh seems to view them – intentionally or not – in Another Year.

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2 Responses to “Is it me? Or is Mike Leigh’s Another Year a pig in a poke?”

  1. John March 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    I hated it. Absolutely no more Mike Leigh for me, ever.

    I suppose that “Happy-Go-Lucky” – where I had to exercise an enormous amount of self-restraint to save me from hurling my shoes at Sally Hawkins’ head – should have been a lesson to me. Instead, I let my admiration for “Vera Drake” talk me into seeing this one, but…

    The script sounded as if it was cobbled together from out-takes from The Archers which had been left on the cutting-room floor because they were so boring.

    What on earth was Imelda Staunton’s character to do with anything?

    Why did virtually every line of dialogue have to include the addressee’s name ?
    eg “How are you, Mary?”.
    “I’m fine, Tom.”
    “Are you, Mary? Good.”.
    “Yes, Tom. And how are you today, Jerry?”
    “I’m fine, Mary”
    “That’s good, Jerry”

    Ad infinitum….scream scream…

    • La Soeur Lumiere March 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

      Thank you so much – very reassuring to know that someone of your impeccable taste and usually tolerant nature loathed it as much as I did. The pain will fade, I promise…

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