A four-part drama about a contented couple (Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent) with those in their orbit (the depressing Lesley Manville the main character) set to the four seasons
There’s great work by Leigh and his go-to DP Dick Pope juxtaposing the seasons (the final Winter chapter really well done with how different the lighting and choice of décor design is) and their home and relationship/life
Sheen (the British Shelley Duvall) and Broadbent own a garden allotment that they’re seen working in every scene- a metaphor for their care and love—and they have a good relationship with their son. They drink but are never drunk (their friends who are alone almost always are), they are in control, forgiving, kind, funny and clearly in love.
The “Spring” chapter starts the film with a close-up of Imelda Staunton – an amazingly angry and depressed person (who Sheen is counseling) – Staunton such a good actress
It’s a little difficult to believe that Manville’s character and Sheen are friends. They are coworkers who have worked together for years so I guess it’s not impossible. But Manville is not smart, and these two (Broadbent and Sheen are). I know the gardening metaphor and these are people who help their friends.
There’s a shot of the contented couple in bed —like Marge and Norm Gunderson at the very end of Fargo– love it
Summer- it becomes clear that this strong formal work is about how much we need each other- a meditation on loneliness, desperation—they have another friend over and he, like Manville, is dependent on drink. Again, the happy couple have a warmly lit, decorated, homey, lived-in house and kitchen.
Phantom Thread in 2017 showed Lesley Manville off to a number of viewers who hadn’t seen her before but she could always act. When Oliver Maltman pretends to guess her age and says 60 or 70—- her face just drops- a great scene for an actor.
In Autumn—Manville (who had set her eyes on Maltman’s younger character) is excruciatingly rude to his new girlfriend. Tough to watch—her pain
The winter segment is great film style. Pope and Leigh alter the lighting structure. It is gray and they’re at Broadbent’s brother’s place (he’s led a drastically different, sadder life than his brother). Bare gray walls— his flat—cold—the lighting is drained.
Leigh is always the realist—these look and act like normal people—impeccable, observational and authentic
A magnificent mise-en-scene setting of the frame at 117 minute with Manville in two open doorways
At 123 minutes the warmth of the Sheen and Broadbent character light up the screen as we’re back, together, sitting around the table and Leigh takes us on an extraordinary 3-minute tracking shot around the table ending on Manville’s face. The dialogue drops off in the middle of the shot for an even greater impact