THE MIKE LEIGH TECHNIQUE
I love the fact that Mike Leigh doesn't let the actors of his films have a script and the fact that he makes them develop the character themselves. He sits them down and asks them a zillion questions about the character they will be, from what sort of breakfast did you eat as a child and how did you go to school to how you feel about your boss and how did you sleep last night. Until the actor becomes the font of all knowledge for their character and will 'live' their character throughout their stint playing them. Abigail's Party and Nuts in May are my favourites probably because Alison Steadman is in both of them.
BRITISH FILM IN HONG KONG
I look out for new work from Leigh and have been looking forward to seeing Another Year. Eventually it came to Hong Kong after being released in the UK last year. I am always keen to watch British films and adore the ordinariness of their portrayal of real life in all its mundane ways much more than the Hollywood razzmatazz.
ANOTHER YEAR - REVIEW
Another Year shows us the lives of Gerri and Tom, a middle-aged couple nearing retirement, and their year as the seasons change on their allotment. Tom is a geologist and Gerri is a counsellor. They are middle class and very comfortable in their cozy modern house and I want to tell you they have an Aga but I am not 100% sure, for arguments sake let's believe they do. But the story is not really about them, its about their long term friends Mary, a desperately sad and lonely woman who Gerri works with and Ken, Tom's old friend who is overweight and unhealthy with a potential drink problem. The other character who is also taken into the kitchen (with Aga) is Tom's brother who comes to stay after the death of his wife.
These three people are featured around the table of Gerri and Tom at various times during the year and their unhappiness is palpable. They are all in need of love and care at a time in their lives when none of them have a partner for various reasons. Mary, in particular, is appealing to the couple for support and a slice of security in her shambolic life. There is no doubt that Lesley Manville was utterly brilliant working in the Mike Leigh style and the audience can feel nothing but sympathy for her.
SUCH A REVOLTING COUPLE
I found the main characters of Tom and Gerri to be the most revolting people. They didn't entertain their friends, they merely tolerated them. They did not help them in any way apart from feeding them and offering copious glasses of wine which was probably the last thing they needed. Looking down their noses at their sad and lonely friends and just allowing them to get deeper into a mire of self pity and mental health problems. Gerri is the worst counsellor in the world and Tom has probably given up caring about his profession a long time ago given that retirement and more time on his allotment is looming. His sensitivity is actually cold and fake.
It is a beautifully shot film and is British in its ordinariness, in a good way. But I was so depressed at their lack of real care for their friends and I became more and more irritated by their superior stance of 'we are happy and you are not' attitude I wanted to take Mary and Ken and genuinely help them. Really listen to their problems and really be supportive instead of a half arsed invitation for dinner during which nothing is really said and nothing is really changed.