Reviewed byDharmendra SinghVote: 9/10/10
Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), the couple at the centreof Mike Leigh's latest existential piece, couldn't be more unlike thecartoon characters who share their names. Together for several decades,their love for each other has only grown. I wouldn't complain if mymarriage looked like theirs when I'm in my 50s.
When he isn't working as a geologist and she isn't counselling people,they spend their time providing solace to those who need it Ken(Peter Wight), a straight-talking, John Smiths-drinking Yorkshireman;Ronnie (David Bradley), Tom's laconic brother whose wife has just died;and most of all Mary (Lesley Manville), a jittery colleague of Gerri'sin the middle of a mid-life crisis. It is Mary who dominates the filmand who most elicits our empathy. She is without love and possibly evenwithout the hope of love. It is genuinely painful to see herdisintegrate scene by scene.
As another year in Tom and Gerri's life unfolds, we see nothingparticularly fascinating happen. They tend to their allotment, theyinvite people to their house for food and company, and they reminisceabout their experiences. Nothing could be more trivial, right? Wrong.This film is about growing old and making the right choices as one getsto old age. Above all it's about recognising that happiness is less aright than an aspiration.
The word 'integrity' comes to mind when I think of Mike Leigh. Who elsecould convince actors to sign up to films where there was no script tobegin with? Throughout his career he has eschewed the Hollywood systemand has done things his own way ('Given the choice of Hollywood orpoking steel pins in my eyes, I'd prefer steel pins').
An audience member expostulated at the end, 'That wasn't veryuplifting'. She's correct, but Leigh doesn't offer folly or fantasy.He's a truth-seeking social observer and commentator. What's alsoappealing about Leigh is that he doesn't spoon-feed his audience. Hisfilms compel the watcher to debate what they have seen and draw theirown conclusions. Why should films give us answers?
I was moved by this film like no other in recent memory. One moment Iwas laughing uncontrollably, the next I was holding back tears. Thefilm emphasises a sad fact: for some people, things don't always goaccording to plan. Sometimes we're just plain unlucky. And that's life.
Reviewed bybobbobwhiteVote: 9/10/10
Lesley Manville as Mary truly deserves the Best Actor Oscar for herperfectly nuanced, scary and convincing portrayal of a woman on thebrink of personal desperation due to her many life mistakes and to herextremely fragile emotional nature that served to spiral her furtherand further down toward mental illness with every romanticdisappointment and life mistake she made. Honestly, I do not thinkMeryl Streep could have played this role as well. Lesley was that greatin it. An astounding performance, and so touching, as you felt everypain Mary felt due to Lesley's spot-on interpretation of hercharacter's neediness and weaknesses and what they cost her.
This film tells a story(by the 4 seasons)of a year in the lives of a UKcouple and their friends. Mary is a secretarial co-worker and friend ofGerri, a professional counselor and the sweet wife of her well-rumpledand very likable engineer/geologist husband, Tom(yes, Tom and Gerri).Mary is the woman we all know at some time or another in our lives....a woman too attractive to always be alone but always is alone afterevery failed attempt at a relationship, always suffering badly fromeach failure to find what she wants so badly.
Not much of an intricate plot here, as in all Mike Leigh films, but thestory was such an absorbing and typical Mike Leigh take on theday-to-day happenings in the ordinary and everyday lives of a normal UKcouple and some at-risk friends. Tom and Gerri were the couple withthese friends in various states of decline, and they always tried hardthrough their gentle patience, understanding and humor to help them andalways be there for them. Ruth Sheen and the great Tom Broadbent playedthe wife/husband roles to perfection, and were so loving, likable andcomfortable with each other and with friends that you wished you hadthem for your own friends. Wonderful portrayals, both.
See this film for engaging personal interaction and for the best actingperformance of 2010, but be prepared for your own uncomfortable andawkward feelings throughout due to Mary's many sufferings and how herendless tales of them affected her(long-suffering)friends. It was atruly human story, sometimes warm and funny, sometimes pathetic anddifficult to watch, but at the end you knew you had seen actinggreatness.
Reviewed bydavidgeeVote: 9/10/10
A strange and sad little film beautifully acted by its ensemble cast.Lesley Manville's agonised performance as Mary, aching with envy at thesolidity and comfort of her best friend's solid marriage, must be ashoo-in for awards next year, but Ruth Sheen is also 100% believable asthe endlessly patient, almost 'saintly' Gerri. Jim Broadbent's Tomteeters on the verge of hamminess, allowing Peter Wight to steal themale acting honours as Ken, another lonely and alcoholic divorcée.
After a sad Spring and a prickly Summer, Autumn brings romance to Tomand Gerri's bachelor son and Winter brings a funeral (not the one we'vebeen dreading). Anchored by the couple's devotion to their allotment,Mike Leigh gives us a film about the seasons in our lives as well as inour vegetable patches. In life, as in the garden, some things flourishand blossom while others wither and decay.
Often humorous but mostly achingly sad, this is a very fine film aboutthe Ordinary Lives of Ordinary People. Not to be missed.
A married couple who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded over the course of the four seasons of one average year by friends, colleagues, and family who all seem to suffer some degree of unhappiness.