Reviews: Another Year & Outside the Law
The new British film Another Year is the study of an average older British couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) and their relations with their son and a number of misfit friends. At over two hours, this film is a bit long, and you kind of wonder why this perfectly happy couple would put up with the losers whot continually visit them.
Directed by Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies), the film is never boring and it is saved by a performance from Lesley Manville that has to be seen to be believed. Manville plays an aging, alcoholic work friend who is a total train wreck as she desperately tries to find a man to escape her lonely existence. This performance is big in every way. It seems like an Actor's Studio British transplant. Manville has so many emotional outbursts that she threatens to turn into a total caricature. Usually these kinds of performances leave me cold but you cannot turn away from her, and by the end of the film she has created a character so etched in despair that the viewer is finally won over.Meanwhile, the final images of her are devastating.
I think she gives a great performance with the emphasis on performance. She’s so over the top that you will resist her for part of the film. But come the end credits I found myself thinking of nothing but her character. Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen are probably much better in their non-histrionic way but you come out of Another Year thinking only of Lesley Manville.
The Algerian foreign film entry this year is Outside the Law. This film about the history of Algeria's fight for independence seen through the eyes of three sons caused a furor at the Cannes Film Festival and it performed poorly in its U.S. release back in November.
Yet this film is amazing as it shows the fight for freedom being waged not only in Algeria but in France as well. The French treatment of the Algerians is still an open sore after all these decades, and the war for independence included terrorist bombings and killings in France.
Directed by Rachid Bouchareb, who made the 2006 Oscar nominee Days of Glory, the film brilliantly charts the lives of an Algerian family from 1945 and to 1962.
The film is made as a fast paced gangster film that just happens to be about a country's freedom. What’s amazing is the way you pull for the three brothers even though their fight for independence includes terrible acts of terrorism in France.
With all the controversy, it will be interesting to see if this film actually gets one of the five foreign picture nominations. With its epic sweep and great performances, Outside The Law is clearly one of the year's best films—foreign or otherwise.