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A married couple who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded over the course of the four seasons of one average year by friends, colleagues, and family who all seem to suffer some degree of unhappiness. Written by
One of Mary's outlays on her troublesome car was for a new carburettor, but the vehicle in the film had fuel injection. See more »
So how long's this been going on for?
I don't know.
A few weeks?
A long time.
I Suppose so.
A whole year? You've taken your time to come and see me, haven't you?
See more »
Greetings again from the darkness. How DARE he? Mike Leigh is such a non-compliant filmmaker. He just refuses to follow the rules ... and film goers are the benefactors of his daring. Mind you, his daring is not in the regards of special effects, stunt work or trick photography. No sir. His daring is with the subject, theme, tone and characters. He is ... GASP ... unafraid of real people! If you have seen Mr. Leigh's work in "Happy-Go-Lucky" or "Vera Drake", you understand that his films can be simplistic on the surface, while carrying multiple layers of commentary and observations. He also has the classic British sense of humor in that very few "punchlines" exist. Instead the humor comes in allowing the viewer to recognize the characters as someone they know, or God forbid, even their own self!
Mr. Leigh has a history of making films without a script ... only broad based outlines for the characters. The actors then work to fill in the details of the individuals, which in turn, forms a story. This explains why the story does not follow the traditional arc. In fact, the story has no real beginning or ending. What we see are the interactions of people who are friends, relatives, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers.
The foundation of the film, as well as the foundation for most of the other characters in the film, is the happily married couple of Tom and Gerri, played by the terrific Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen. This is a couple who not only love and respect each other, but also enjoy being together. Their friends and family come in and out of their lives, but their bond is strong.
Key amongst this group is their friend, and Gerri's co-worker, Mary (Lesley Manville). Mary is someone we all recognize. She is single, not getting any younger, desperately trying to avoid loneliness (too often with a bottle), masking her fear through fake excitement, and latched onto the security blanket offered by Tom and Gerri's friendship.
When family friend Ken (Peter Wight) makes a move on Mary, she shuns him because of his lack of perfection. She always thinks she can do better. When she begins fixating on Tom and Gerri's son Joe (Oliver Maltman), we really feel her pain but just want to slap some sense into her. The relationships all take a hit when Mary shows up for dinner and is introduced to Joe's new girlfriend ... a wonderfully charming and talented Katie (Karina Fernandez). Mary acts the selfish fool and it drives a wedge between she and Gerri. There is even a line of dialogue earlier on ... never come between a mother and her son! Another character we are witness to includes the great Imelda Staunton as a depressed middle-aged woman who comes to Gerri for professional guidance. We also meet David Bradley as Tom's older brother, Ronnie, whose wife has recently passed.
All of these situations and personalities are balanced by Tom and Gerri as they provide a stable environment ... it's as if they are a fountain of sanity from which everyone wishes to drink. As an added touch, none of the characters are Hollywood beauties. Broadbent and Ms. Sheen would never be mistaken for Brad and Angelina. Rather they are more likely to look like someone you know ... and better yet, their characters live like people you WANT to know. So again I ask ... How dare he?
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