If there’s a statement that illustrates the difference between the Hollywood machine and the art of European film, it’s British movie director Mike Leigh’s statement that “I’ve always been concerned, for as long as I’ve ever been making films or stage plays, with celebrating the lives of ordinary people. That’s what it’s all about.” Ordinary people huh?
Luckily for Mr Leigh, Cannes is the perfect film festival for someone whose art celebrates ordinary lives. His film, Another Year, is one of two British films in the competition (more of his rivals in another post) and so far has had positive reviews. It features some experienced acting talent, including Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville, who will be familiar from previous Leigh films and British TV.
The movie is structured according to the four seasons and focuses on a middle aged couple, Gerri (Ruth Sheen) a medical councillor, and Tom (Jim Broadbent), an engineer. Manville plays Mary, a lonely colleague of Gerri who has a complicated love life and uses the more settled lives of the couples as ballast. She soon develops a crush on their son Joe (Oliver Maltman), who is due to marry Katie (Katrina Fernandez).
By most accounts, there’s not too much in the way of plot, but some great ensemble acting. Lesley Manville has already been tipped for the Best Actress award and the Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan seems to be a massive Leigh fan. Some of his films have been criticised for being miserable, but this one balances melancholy with happier emotions. The director himself may still be a grouchy old sod if some stories are to be believed. The film also has one of the best slogan t-shirts seen in any film, worn by Tom’s childhood friend Ken (Peter Wight) and saying: Less Thinking, More Drinking.