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dir-scr Mike Leigh
prd Georgina Lowe
with Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Oliver Maltman, David Bradley, Karina Fernandez, Imelda Staunton, Peter Wight, Martin Savage, Michele Austin, Phil Davis, Stuart McQuarrie
release UK 5.Nov.10, US 29.Dec.10
10/UK Focus 2h09
Friends and family: Maltman, Manville and Sheen
CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Even for Mike Leigh, this film feels like a rather subdued slice-of-life in which nothing much really happens. But it's impeccably made at every level, with bracingly sharp performances and a ruthlessly honest script.
Tom and Gerri (Broadbent and Sheen) are a happy middle-aged couple in London with an equally contented 30-year-old son Joe (Maltman). But Gerri's friend Mary (Manville) is another story: single and more than a bit desperate, she also has a creeping alcohol problem. While she seems like the perfect fit for Tom's friend Ken (Wight), she instead has her eye on Joe, which becomes a problem when he brings a girlfriend (Fernandez) home. Meanwhile, Tom's brother (Bradley) is struggling with his strained relationship with his surly son (Savage).
All of this plays out over the four seasons of one year, as these people interact in a variety of ways. Each encounter, usually over dinner at Tom and Gerri's house, simmers with tension as the wrong things are said at all the wrong times. To this, Tom and Gerri react as peacemakers, which seems rather condescending to the troubled people around them. But life goes on, and at least they never turn their backs on their distraught friends and family.
Leigh and his amazing cast capture this with a lacerating attention to detail. In many ways this feels like a French movie, as the characters talk incessantly, but what they say seems disconnected from what's actually going on. The actors approach this with a raw naturalism that takes the breath away; Broadbent and Sheen are simply perfect in their roles, while Manville and Fernandez shine as much showier characters and Bradley says more than everyone else with just a shrug.
The film is also impeccably shot, edited and scored by Dick Pope, Jon Gregory and Gary Yershon, respectively. It looks simply gorgeous, with unfussy sets and a very specific quality of light in each of the four seasonal chapters. Each season is punctuated with a visit to Tom and Gerri's allotment, which adds a very nice touch. The film also cleverly captures the fact that much of real life takes place in the kitchen. And that we cause the most harm when we refuse to say what needs to be said.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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