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.<br><br>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. <br><br>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.<br><br>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'). <br><br>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? <br><br>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.<br><br>www.scottishreview.net
Comedy / Drama
Comedy / Drama
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.
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