Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. United Kingdom, 2010. Thin Man Films, Film4, Focus Features International, UK Film Council, Untitled 09. Screenplay by Mike Leigh. Cinematography by Dick Pope. Produced by Georgina Lowe. Music by Gary Yershon. Production Design by Simon Beresford. Costume Design by Jacqueline Durran. Film Editing by Jon Gregory. Academy Awards 2010. Cannes Film Festival 2010. National Board of Review Awards 2010. Toronto International Film Festival 2010. Washington Film Critics Awards 2010.
A group of characters are observed throughout four seasons in this lyrically beautiful film by Mike Leigh. While he customarily focuses on the interactions between working-class Londoners, in this particular case he has complicated the levels by focusing on medical secretary Lesley Manville and her friendship with therapist Ruth Sheen and geologist Jim Broadbent. Sheen and Broadbent are the perfect hosts and shoulders to cry on, while Manville is a manic ball of insecurity, feeling the pressures of aging and loneliness and completely unable to be honest with herself about what is dissatisfying about her life. The situations that the group of them get into are heartbreaking, hilarious and sometimes downright terrifying as Leigh puts Manville on the hot spot and watches as she lashes out at everyone around her in one way or the other. Many of the character types are familiar to the director’s fans (as are their faces, pretty much all of them played by Leigh regulars including Imelda Staunton in an incredible cameo), but there has been a development of style over the years that shows up here: the long, theatrically-minded takes of Leigh’s previous films have now become short, razor-sharp edits that go back and forth between characters and make sure to give just as much attention to each individuals’ reactions as much as their expressions. Moving into the widescreen format as well shows this great master filmmaker moving more into the cinematic realm than he ever has before, and this wonderful work shows that he does not compromise his integrity in doing so. If for nothing else, the film is a superb showcase for Manville’s talents, who is bewitchingly brilliant throughout.