…and the quest to see everything

Another Year

Janet (Imelda Staunton) is a depressed older woman suffering from insomnia and wants to get prescribed pills. When advised by a hospital’s psychiatrist Jerri (Ruth Sheen) to think about having more sessions with the latter, she say she does. She won’t even try to deceive Jerri and pretend that she’s found the solutions to her problems and she’s fine but instead she’s a closed clam.

Covering a year in its characters’ lives, Another Year, delves on Pavolvian traits and their effect on relationships and friendships. The wall Janet puts up against Jerri is an easiest way to end a relationship, but writer/director Mike Leigh‘s shows us the exact opposite of Janet with Mary (Lesley Manville). We first meet Mary as Jerri walks through her workplace, their work relationship seemingly harmless and normal, not too many attachments. She invites Jerri to a drink, and we finally get to see the real Mary. We’ll see, as she talks about saving up to buy a car, making everything about her. She opens up and brings up her life history after three glasses of white wine and start picking fights with Jerri’s husband Tom (Jim Boradbent) about his supposed hypocrisies in his environmental stance. How can the couple stay in a decade old friendship with someone they’re practically babysitting?

Mary brings up a fear within the audience that we might be Mary, the unfortunate outsider. She abuses her friendship with the couple without  returning the favour by bringing a glass of wine and not finishing it, or asking ‘How are you’ back, or invite the couple up to her apartment even if it doesn’t compare to a house. Despite differences, Mary and Janet feel ashamed about themselves, which stop them from creating healthy relationships. Janet closes doors while Mary intrudes upon others so her friends doesn’t have to enter her space. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is her hostility towards the innocent Katie (Karina Fernandez), the couple’s future daughter-in-law. At the same time the couple then brings up a conundrum on how to become a good friend, as Leigh doesn’t show us alternatives other than being a non-burden and being a ‘nuisance’ as Jerri finally says about Mary.

I’m probably the only person who isn’t 100% sold on Manville’s performance, whose nervous ticks and hand gestures invade her own close-ups. Broadbent and Sheen’s roles aren’t showy, but their soft-sell condescension chills and might be missed by characters as daft or unintentionally insensitive as Mary. The last scene saves both Manville and Mary, experiencing the same problems, and the audience finally gets on her side. Her car problems do suck and yes, Katie is kind of annoying. Her problems are heavier, as her friends become unreachable.

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4 responses

  1. To be honest, I wasn’t sold on the performance either. I think in the trio she’s definitely the weakest of the three. She really overdoes it.
    Broadbent is my favourite.

    January 31, 2011 at 1:07 am

  2. Ruth Sheen’s my MVP. Her character’s that kind whose constant kindness can either make you wanna hug her or drive you crazy.

    January 31, 2011 at 1:21 am

  3. I miss Imelda Staunton being awesome in movies. I hear she’s doing Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD in London this year. And you know I love HBC (hello, obsessed) but that made me squeal with delight. Another reason I wish I was British.

    February 1, 2011 at 5:35 pm

  4. Digression! To be honest, I thought Staunton was more fierce in her 30 seconds in the new Harry Potter than she was in her 3 minutes here.

    Also Staunton and HBC sharing the same role is another reason, I would give anything to be a fly on the wall of the adults table of the Harry Potter film sets.

    February 2, 2011 at 11:59 am

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