and sometimes poetry

Another Year (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

I had menstrual cramps during Another Year. And popcorn-for-dinner made them worse. I was really stressed out on account of having all these student essays to grade, and feeling like I couldn’t write a poem if my life depended on it right now, and too why should I worry about writing poems anyway, is there a more useless and banal activity out there for a woman of my age and class and ethnicity to be doing; I ended up buying Mark both a drink before and a ticket to the movie because I suddenly felt awkward while he was in the restroom and solved that awkwardness, as I am wont to do, by purchasing something; I also drove him home despite my cramps, and the popcorn, and the stress about all the stuff I have to do and am not doing; and then I thought about writing this review and how I would have to adopt the goddamned “we” again and turn whatever dumb argument I had been losing with him in the car about character and realism, and how the movie failed to convince me of the “realness” of its characters because it hewed too closely to the codes by which we all understand ourselves to be “real,” following, in fact, the conventions of “realism” into the deep morass of its inevitable anti-category, “dullness,” into something profound and how I am stupidly sensible, and conventional in my aesthetics, and have become the “straight man” by tacit consensus; and then I went home and took a shower and washed my hair which I have started to hate doing because it is long and becoming pelt-like and like a pelt sheds everywhere—just today I lent someone my pen, only to notice with horror a clump of strands wrapped around its cap—

and then I got up early and wrote some biographies and graded some essays and gave a presentation on “clear classroom instruction” to my fellow TAs that probably made me look super-lame and prepared; then I came home and started trying to think about what I will say in seminar tomorrow, but then remembered I had this review to write and wrote my two paragraphs in which I said things like, “There can be no such thing as a “real character”—really. There can be degrees of realness, approximations in fiction to life, but no exact equivalence. We like ‘characters’ because, unlike ourselves or our friends, they are discrete” and “It asks us to see its characters as just as infinite and complex and ‘real’ as we ourselves actually are, and in doing so it cedes its claim to our attention and becomes a product of its excellent craft—‘art,’” before I grew so disgusted with it, and bored with it, and almost angry with myself, and the ways in which I feint and hide and puff myself and my opinions up with plural singulars, and large words, and knowing attitudes when really I know nothing at all, that I started writing this, looking out the window and thinking I am just so tired of winter and now terribly frightened at what I am writing, and what Mark might post, and if you have ever felt the terror of starting something and not knowing will you be able to stop it, you know what I am feeling, and you are alive and exist, and should probably go see Another Year because I’ve written myself into a change of opinion and now I kind of like it (though I still think the main character’s “unlikeability” could have been more attractively fulfilled).

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