After the injection of vitality and optimism that was Happy-Go-Lucky, Leigh returns in top form with Another Year, his bittersweet reflection about the vital changes that come with age and the random nature of fate. Structured in a cyclical way through four episodes, one per season, the film works as a simple metaphor for the passing of time.
Life is good for Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen). They are a happy, good natured couple blessed with satisfying jobs, a loving son and a circle of close friends – whom we are introduced to through a series of social occasions. Some of them don’t share their luck though, struggling to get by, unhappy and lonely. With this warm and affectionate look at the contrast between their lives, the veteran British director has crafted one of his best films to date. His usual way to work with actors, based on research and improvisation, once again brings out the best on his superb cast. Leslie Manville nearly steals the show with a role that’s already hotly tipped for Oscar glory.
The second gala of the day was Miral. The renowned painter Julian Schnabel has also forged a celebrated film career by breaking the rules of the traditional biopic while taking remarkable life stories to the big screen – such as that of Cuban poet Reynaldo Arenas or paralysed French writer Jean-Dominique Bauby – and shooting with groundbreaking technical skill. His fourth feature follows that formula, but in a more expansive way.
Miral is the tale of three generations of women and how their lives are affected by the still ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Based on the book by Jula Jebreal, who also adapted the screenplay, Miral stars Hiam Abbas and Freida Pinto. The wide historical, political and human scope of what’s being covered prevents the film from being as accomplished as any of Schnabel’s previous works, but regardless of its achievements, Miral is a needed plea for peace and reason in a conflict that has spread ove half a century putting the world to shame.
And just when all the glitz and excitement had raised our blood pressure to dangerous levels, we found the perfect antidote in the Italian documentary Le Quattro Volte, a contemplative, dialogue free look at life in a small Calabrian village that managed to calm us down and left us ready for another packed today.