I Give it a Year

I Give it a YearJosh (Rafe Spall), a struggling writer, and Nat (Rose Byrne), a successful associate at a marketing firm, met at a party and immediately fell in love. After a whirlwind romance, the two get married. During the ceremony, Nat’s friend Naomi (Minnie Driver) remarks to her husband that the marriage won’t last more than a year.

Nat and Josh host a dinner party with Naomi, her husband, Chloe (Anna Faris), and Dan (Stephen Merchant), Josh’s best man at the wedding. During the dinner, Dan mentions that Josh and Chloe never officially broke up. This is startling news to Nat.

At work, Nat and her coworkers are getting ready to pitch a marketing campaign to a high-profile American client, Guy Harrap (Simon Baker). Nat’s coworkers suggest that Nat flirt with Guy to help land the account. Reluctantly, Nat goes along with the plan after one of her coworkers steals Nat’s wedding ring.

As Nat tries to win Guy over professionally, he tries to win her over romantically. Embarrassed and unsatisfied by her marriage to Josh, Nat can’t find the words to tell Guy that she is already married. He pushes harder and harder to try to win her affection. She tries to find ways to fend off his advances.

Meanwhile, Chloe helps Josh find a Christmas gift for Nat. As they spend time together, old flames start to rekindle, finding the pair in a potentially compromising situation.

As Nat and Josh approach their anniversary, will they be able to survive their less than stellar first year and live happily ever after?

I Give it a Year chronicles the difficulty that goes into the first year of marriage, especially after such a short relationship. One thing to keep in mind is this is a British comedy. The humor and pace are a bit different from typical American romcoms.

Stephen Merchant steals the first half of the film. Playing the inappropriate best friend/best man, Dan, his jokes are fast and furious. And off-color. It makes for a lot of uncomfortable, yet hilarious situations. As the film continues, Dan’s role diminishes until he is noticeably absent. As the story progresses, he isn’t really needed anymore. One could question whether his character was necessary at all. The film could have omitted him completely, but we would have missed all the magical moments in the beginning.

Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall are perfectly suited for their roles. By that, I mean that you never really feel any connection between them. Part of this is inherent to the story, but I didn’t feel anything even at the beginning of the story. They have their moments when they really shine comedically. Rafe’s coming most notably during the Christmas time flashbacks. Rose, while entertaining, never quite reaches the comedic level she has shown she is capable of.

Anna Faris, on the other hand, shows that she is capable of more than the goofy, over the top roles she is typically cast in. Her Chloe is more levelheaded and realistic than I would have expected, while still letting glimpses of Anna shine through. Simon Baker fills the role of the ladies’ man who isn’t afraid to go after what he wants. He is confident he will win Nat over, because, who could resist him? (I’m sure this is something Simon knows all too well from real life.) Throw in a handful well placed quips from Minnie Driver, and you have a solid cast working with a fairly solid script.

While the story is nothing new, by any means, it is a fresh take on the tale. Two people who marry too quickly and then struggle to learn how to be a couple. I don’t know if it is the British humor that gives it a different feel, or that it is just lacking the cheesiness of typical romcoms. Writer/director Dan Mazer also found a way to successfully transition from the silliness of the first act to the more romantic storytelling towards the end without losing the heart of the film. Even as the mood changes, the hilarious, sometimes cringe-worthy scenes keep coming. Whether it is a romantic dinner (complete with doves), or a game of charades, or even looking over pictures from the past year, the laughs don’t stop.

What is most refreshing about I Give it a Year is that is not predictable, like most films of the genre. Throughout the movie, I was never quite sure how it would end. Once we got to the end, it was satisfying and fit the tone of the film.

This is one of the best romantic comedies I’ve sat through in a long time. It is definitely not one that you get to the end wishing you had the last hour and a half back. Again, good deal of this is owed to Stephen Merchant opening the movie on such a high note. If you get the chance, pick up this most likely overlooked gem.

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