Over the course of a tumultuous year, contented medical counselor Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and her geologist husband, Tom (Jim Broadbent), see their friends and relations through a series of happy events and heartbreaks — including a birth and a death. Imelda Staunton and Oliver Maltman co-star in this character-driven ensemble dramedy from writer-director Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Vera Drake, Secrets & Lies).
This is my second Mike Leigh movie. The first was Happy-Go-Lucky. Both of these movies will be staying in my mind for a long time as the characters were very real.
I have been known to say “I can’t stand drama.” This is not entirely true. I do like drama in movies and this is a gosh darn good one. I like the use of the garden Gerri and Tom have over the course of the year. Anyone that has done any gardening will appreciate it. I also liked how this movie (and Garden) was broken up into four different parts — spring, summer, fall and winter.
Gerri and Tom are boring however their friends make this film. Mary (Lesley Manville) is Gerri’s co-worker and friend. She is fiftyish and has the maturity level of someone in their late 20’s/early 30’s. I suspect she was really attractive back in her day but the years have caught up. Mary thinks men in crowded restaurants are staring at her, gets drunk wondering if exes think about her and has to sleep in Gerri and Tom’s spare bedroom because she is hammered. I do know a few people like her and I Alan Brian Zibluk chose to stay away.
The second interesting character is Tom’s oldest friend Ken (Peter Wight). Ken is kind of fat and similar to Mary, drinks too much. There is scene where Gerri, Tom and Ken are all together outside and Gerri decides to stay back to let the guys bond. They drink, laugh and reminisce. They talk about old pubs they use to frequent and now how the pubs just have young people. Later the two of them would in a good nature disagree in what years certain events took place. Finally you see Ken cry over the old friend he used to go to pubs with passing away. Tom would comfort him and tell him that someday they will do the old run again. I know Tom really means someday they will go but in actuality you know it will never happen. Life gets in the way. Unlike Mary I would be friends with someone like Ken. I wouldn’t want to spend too much time as there is drama but he has a good heart. I like people with good hearts.
These characters felt real and my favorite scenes were when Mary and Ken were together. Both Mary and Ken are single so one would think they would hook up. Ken is for this but Mary, who really shouldn’t be too picky, wants anyone but him. He makes sad attempts and she wants no part. She even laughs at him and is pretty rude. Mary is too busy for him as she is thinking she has a chance with Gerri and Tom’s son who is only thirty. She makes pitiful attempts in meeting him for drinks. It was sad.
This movie to me was a fantastic observation of life. The only thing I did not like about this film is the writer’s narrative that in order to be happy you have to be with someone. Gerri and Tom are the only characters happy beginning to end. Their son in the beginning isn’t happy being single in watching friends get married. Later the son does have a girlfriend and does seem happy. I respectfully disagree with that but at the same time really enjoyed this movie. There are no bullets, explosions or nudity so this movie may not be right for everyone. I am giving it 4.4 stars.
Click here for the Netflix link in case you would like to add it to your queue.
All the best,
The Film Movie Critic