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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 »
Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), the couple at the centre of Mike Leigh's latest existential piece, couldn't be more unlike the cartoon characters who share their names. Together for several decades, their love for each other has only grown. I wouldn't complain if my marriage looked like theirs when I'm in my 50s.
When he isn't working as a geologist and she isn't counselling people, they spend their time providing solace to those who need it Ken (Peter Wight), a straight-talking, John Smiths-drinking Yorkshireman; Ronnie (David Bradley), Tom's laconic brother whose wife has just died; and most of all Mary (Lesley Manville), a jittery colleague of Gerri's in the middle of a mid-life crisis. It is Mary who dominates the film and who most elicits our empathy. She is without love and possibly even without the hope of love. It is genuinely painful to see her disintegrate scene by scene.
As another year in Tom and Gerri's life unfolds, we see nothing particularly fascinating happen. They tend to their allotment, they invite people to their house for food and company, and they reminisce about their experiences. Nothing could be more trivial, right? Wrong. This film is about growing old and making the right choices as one gets to old age. Above all it's about recognising that happiness is less a right than an aspiration.
The word 'integrity' comes to mind when I think of Mike Leigh. Who else could convince actors to sign up to films where there was no script to begin with? Throughout his career he has eschewed the Hollywood system and has done things his own way ('Given the choice of Hollywood or poking steel pins in my eyes, I'd prefer steel pins').
An audience member expostulated at the end, 'That wasn't very uplifting'. She's correct, but Leigh doesn't offer folly or fantasy. He's a truth-seeking social observer and commentator. What's also appealing about Leigh is that he doesn't spoon-feed his audience. His films compel the watcher to debate what they have seen and draw their own conclusions. Why should films give us answers?
I was moved by this film like no other in recent memory. One moment I was laughing uncontrollably, the next I was holding back tears. The film emphasises a sad fact: for some people, things don't always go according to plan. Sometimes we're just plain unlucky. And that's life.
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