Tom and Gerri are what one could call a blissfully happy couple. While they seem to have everything together, Tom and Mary seem to have to support their family and friends through their own drama. Gerri’s co-worker and good friend, Mary, could only be described as desperate and lonely. Clinging on to her sanity through her friendship with Gerri, she desperately is in need of attention, affection and support. They son, Joe, has his own struggles with love but has a much better sense of self than the interested Mary. Tom’s father, Ronnie, and friend, Ken, both have their social awkwardness but do their best to avoid asking for help. Over the course of a year, these personalities interact, clash and find solace in their relationships with one another.
Starring: Jim Broadbent (Tom), Ruth Sheen (Gerri), Lesley Manville (Mary), Karina Fernandez (Katie), Oliver Maltman (Joe), Peter Wright (Ken), David Bradley (Ronnie), Philip Davis (Jack), Imelda Stauton (Janet), Martin Savage (Carl), Michele Austin (Tanya)
Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen are the epitome of a happy couple as they both seem to have a comfortable and loving relationship and great on-screen chemistry. While there is the small joke with their names, there is really no joke about their ability to project the positive characteristics of a successful long-term couple. For Lesley Manville, her portrayal of a hopeless middle-aged woman is very strong. She maintains a presence of neuroticism and an inability to find happiness when her world is not what she would expect. Though sometimes over the top, Manville steals the screen every scene she was in. Peter Wright plays a similar character to Manville except without the neuroticism, but instead with more of a self-defeating perspective. Oliver Maltman has a sweet charm with the audience and his on-screen partner, Karina Fernandez.
Mike Leigh’s film serves as a peek into the life of a couple with the greater focus on the lives that surround them. It actually serves more as a theme of perspective. The big questions end up being “what happened over the past year,” “what has changed” and “where did you want to be?” Tom and Gerri seem to be content (minus the funeral) and have no regrets with their experience from the start (spring) to the end of the year (winter). Mary is the most interesting case. She clearly expresses a desire to find a man, exert some independence and get a break in the stress of her life. Her biggest problem is that her expectations are set too high which make it nearly impossible for her to feel happiness with even the smallest achievement. When she buys the car, she cannot do anything but find ways to complain about the experience. When the camera focuses in on her at the end of the film, it is clear that she has only taken steps backwards with her obsessions over the car, Joe and her failed expectations.
The film looks at four days (one per season). While the days seem mundane, they each show certain values projected by the positivity of Tom and Gerri and the challenges of the rest of the friends and family. It is worth a look if you are into something that feels more like an indie drama.
Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5