If nothing else, Dan Mazer’s I Give It a Year serves as a corrective to the married-with-children worldview that dominates a certain strand of mainstream comedies. Whereas directors like Judd Apatow seem unable to envision any other alternative to wedded disharmony, Mazer has no trouble coming up with another possibility: the prospect of simply terminating an unhappy union.
After a whirlwind opening montage that shows Londoners Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall) meeting cute, stealing away for romantic encounters, and getting hitched barely half a year later, the film slows down and traces the near instant disintegration of their marriage. At the nuptials, Nat’s friend Naomi (Minnie Driver), a kindred spirit to Leslie Mann’s browbeating Debbie from Knocked Up and This Is 40, sets the stage for what’s to come by delivering the film’s eponymous prediction. Even getting through a year, however, seems like quite a challenge for the film’s colossally mismatched central pair, who almost instantly begin to get under each other’s not terribly thick skin. When Josh rediscovers his feelings for ex-flame Chloe (Anna Faris) and Nat starts flirting with a wealthy, handsome new client at work (Simon Baker), instinctively hiding her wedding ring whenever he appears, it becomes clear that the marriage is doomed.
The film operates in a kind of holding pattern for much of its running time, spinning out comedic situations to fill out the months it takes to reach the prescribed number in the movie’s title and for the central couple to realize their essential incompatibility. Much of the film’s attempted laughs come from the comedy-of-discomfort school, with an endless array of situations that milk awkwardness to a degree that makes these scenes far more unpleasant than humorous to watch. Spall in particular works the awkward angle for repeated, if dubious, effect, continually saying inappropriate things, then attempting to backtrack, but only making things worse.
He’s joined, and far surpassed, in his efforts at being extremely irritating by Office co-creator Stephen Merchant, who appears in a cameo as an obnoxious friend whose perpetually inappropriate commentary would make David Brent blush. Only the ending—which somewhat facilely shifts the context of the standard rom-com clichés before embracing them fully, but which nonetheless proves charming—lifts us out of this morass of misery.