If you ever wonder whether life is worth living then don’t ask British film director, Mike Leigh. He’ll tell you that you might as well give up on life and just drift along till you die.
That’s the message I got from Leigh’s latest venture into Miseryland which is called “Another Year” because it covers one year in the life of the main protagonists. But it’s just another year like any other.
The director has his fans and I did enjoy “Secrets and Lies” and “Vera Drake” because they had substance. There was a denouement to them, a story that was engrossing.
This film unfortunately leaves you high and dry, in mid-sentence, so to speak, and that is disappointing.
“Another Year” has no development as such. A older couple living a very boring twilight life in a rather ordinary English suburban home which one critic described as well-to-do. Surely not! They are supposed to be happy together and while there is no conflict between them, there is also no spark or vitality in their lives. They seem disengaged from other things as they cultivate their allotment, a very British hobby.
Tom and Gerri, (a bit of Leigh’s humorous reference to the Cat and Mouse cartoon characters, which goes nowhere, unfortunately) are still working in their professions. Tom is a geologist and engineer and Gerri is a counsellor. Interestingly enough, their professions seem to have no bearing on their lives
Into their lives comes an array of troubled visitors who really need empathy but don’t receive it from their hosts. They are given meals and then sent back to continue their miserable lives without Tom or Gerri feeling anything for them. It’s as if the rest of the world doesn’t seem to matter to them.
Lesley Manville as Mary, the tragically lonely work colleague of Gerri is quite brilliant in her role. Her acting is outstanding. Mary elicites our sympathy and makes us resent Gerri’s callous indifference to her needs. To be fair to Gerri, however, Mary is too cloyingly needy and tiresome and Tom and Gerri don’t want to have their lives invaded by her. How far should we become involved in other people’s lives, is probably one of the main themes of this film. According to “Another Year” we should keep our distance, remain uninvolved.
The same goes for all the other characters in the film, who are meant to act as foils for “the happy couple.” I suspect that they invite these lost souls into their home to make themselves feel better by comparison. It’s a kind of perverted affirmation that they, Gerri and Tom, are okay.
So many melancholy people in this long, long film leave one with a depressed feeling. And yet it’s not a film to make you cry which is really strange. So much sadness and yet no tears. Very much like French existential literature which leaves one numb from lack of human feeling.
We get Leigh’s oft repeated message about life being very unbearable without companionship.
We also get the message that Mike Leigh’s film is not uplifting in a way that makes you glad you bothered to see it. This one isn’t entertaining either and should not be viewed by anyone contemplating suicide because if you feel that life is too sad and lonely to endure, then “Another Year” will only confirm it.
In all honesty, had it been showing on T.V I would have switched channels three quarters of the way through but I kept on hoping it would lead to something. It didn’t.