The May 2011 Harper’s has a superb review of ‘Another Year’ by Francine Prose: ‘Lonely Island: Mike Leigh’s Intimate Cinema’.
I’ve praised ‘Another Year’ here and here. I’m likely to rave about it again and again. Or, I may not.
I may just remind you to read Ms. Prose’s insightful, well-written essay. A couple of samples:
…Doubtless this “roundness of character” (E.M. Forster’s formulation) is a consequence of Leigh’s unusual working method, which he has described as being “to discover what the film is by making it.” Every Leigh film is preceded by months of improvisatory rehearsal during which the characters gradually evolve. Each actor is expected to research the role … and to remain in character for long periods, both inside and outside the practice space. Only just before filming is a list of scenes written down and then shot in chronological sequence (counter to the Hollywood convention of shooting scenes in the order dictated by the production schedule). The actors are never told anything that their characters would not know in the narrative.
…Concerned with seeing how people behave wherever they happen to have landed (and gotten stuck) on the continuum between community and isolation, Leigh’s art is distinguished less by his dividing people into categories of the fulfilled and the lonely than by his frank, fatalistic acceptance of the fact that this distinction exists.