British director Leigh's "Another Year" at Cannes

Sat May 15, 2010 11:37am EDT
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By James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A happy couple with unhappy friends form the basis of "Another Year," British director Mike Leigh's characteristically wry exploration of flawed humanity showing at the Cannes film festival.

Tom and his wife Gerri, played by Leigh regulars Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen have been together for 40 years, raising their son Joe, working on their garden and playing occasional host to friends like Gerri's scatty colleague Mary.

As in many of Leigh's films, drama comes in small doses, usually accompanied by a melancholy comedy that underlines the everyday humanity of life in the London suburb where Tom and Gerri have their semi-detached house.

"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," the director told reporters after the film's press screening.

Tom and Gerri's middle-aged contentment is balanced by Mary, given to rambling, wine-fueled monologues, or the overweight, chain-smoking Ken, railing against the replacement of his favorite pubs by trendy bars full of young people.

Their son's new girlfriend, the death of a relative and occasional glimpses of Gerri's work as a hospital counselor or Tom's job as an engineer make up the rest of the action but there is little in the way of a conventional plot.

Dividing the film into four seasonal episodes, each of which shows Tom and Gerri at work in their small garden allotment, Leigh said he had tried to anchor their lives in the physical world around them.

"Here we've tried to create a world where you really feel the seasons, you feel the air that they're breathing, you feel the connection with the earth, you see it and it should resonate with what ordinary people's lives are about," he said.   Continued...

<p>Director Mike Leigh attends a news conference for his film "Another Year" in competition at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival May 15, 2010. Nineteen films compete for the prestigious Palme d'Or which will be awarded on May 23. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier</p>