24 January 2011

Review: Another Year

Genre: Drama

Director's, Mike Leigh's, newest film is truly, as its name implicates, a chronicle from a British perspective of contemporary life. Embodying class-based struggles in a steady gaze upon birth and death, marriage and separation, Another Year places itself within the conservatory's daily wisdom that marvels at the apparently swift passage of time simultaneously as it lingers listless amid the ticking minutes, hours, and days. A treatise on relevance and responsibility, the film is a clearly commanding work; yet it is also somehow one that adds nothing but a false documentarian's commentary to an otherwise quotidian narrative.
Perhaps this simplicity is Mr. Leigh's aim, you say: dispense with pretense and show only the studied reality - and to the writer/director's credit I, considering the sequence of his works until this one, must agree that this ascetic tone is a natural step in the progression away from social and historical contrivances and into unadorned anthropological observation. However, picking up the pieces from this free-form drama, Mr. Leigh as both writer and director does retain a dauntingly high level of complexity in reaching over the fence, from interpretive fiction into microcosmically didactic reproduction. Evidenced by the trying silences of the film's fourth act, this layered structural intricacy is itself the wonder of the film; so tight in its composition that one could easily overlook it, the bedrock of Another Year does admit Mr. Leigh's having pushed himself farther into new ground, albeit as flat and inexorable  as the "digging holes" descriptor is to the character's (Tom's) infrastructure-engineering geology.
Forgiving us all our professions - including his himself's - Mr. Leigh abandons the director's chair for the pottery-maker's stool; and by his unlearning hands, upon cyclical smoothening, a true clay-pot emerges - one just for the perennials in the flowerbed underneath the sill, which do in certain aspects take on the beauty of the situation but which mainly form in their motley collection a reflective personal accomplishment for him who views them just every morning.

Grade: B+

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