Mike Leigh Makes 'Another Year' Extraordinary

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British writer-director Mike Leigh focuses his films on ordinary people with ordinary lives. He's known for finding extraordinary resonance in the everyday. His latest movie is Another Year.


If you've had your fill of cable, here's a movie you might want to consider. "Another Year" is the work of Mike Leigh. The British writer director is known for finding resonance in stories of ordinary people living ordinary lives. And critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN: With Mike Leigh, the everyday becomes extraordinary. "Another Year" revolves around a happily married couple named Tom and Gerri, played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen. Together they form an island of steadiness and dependability. No one depends more on these two than their younger friend Mary, played by Lesley Manville. Mary is a little frantic from the first moments we see her - a flighty, live-wire individual who seems to have too much energy for her own good.

(Soundbite of movie "Another Year")

Ms. LESLEY MANVILLE (Actress): (As Mary) I'm really comfortable with where I am in my life. As you know, I've got my lovely own garden flat, I've got a good job, I've got my health, touch wood, I've got my independence, I've got anybody telling me what to do. I mean don't get me wrong. It's not all rosy. I have good and bad days like everyone else. Don't I? But hey...

TURAN: As the year goes on, however, Mary becomes increasingly unhinged, a loose cannon that no one can control. When she gets it into her head to begin flirting with Tom and Gerri's son Joe, the results become disastrous.

(Soundbite of movie "Another Year")

Ms. MANVILLE: (As Mary) It's Joe.

Mr. OLIVER MALTMAN (Actor): (As Joe) Hi Mary.

Ms. MANVILLE: (As Mary) Hello Joe. What a surprise.

Mr. MALTMAN: (As Joe) You all right?

Ms. MANVILLE: (As Mary) I'm great, how are you? Oh, continental. You're so sweaty.

Mr. MALTMAN: (As Joe) Well, I've been riding all morning.

Ms. MANVILLE: (As Mary) Have you? I like your hat.

Mr. MALTMAN: (As Joe) Um-hum.

Ms. MANVILLE: (As Mary) Aw, that's right. Never forget to kiss your mom.

Mr. MALTMAN: (As Joe) I never do.

Ms. MANVILLE: (As Mary) No, you're a good boy, aren't you?

Mr. MALTMAN: (As Joe) Yeah.

Ms. MANVILLE: (As Mary) I remember when you were this big. You were a naughty boy.

Mr. MALTMAN: (As Joe) I still am from time to time.

Ms. MANVILLE: (As Mary) Oh really?

TURAN: Lesley Manville's superlative acting unselfconsciously unpeels Mary like an onion. We see her as she is, someone alternately in denial and despair about the unhappiness in her life.

Mike Leigh uses a particular method of working with actors to go deeper into character than one would have thought possible. He calls his method organic, which means spending enormous amounts of time, sometimes months, in one-on-one work with the actors, creating the characters literally from scratch. It's a method that pays spectacular dividends, and never more so than in this film.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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