By Gary Murray
Starring Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen and Peter Wight
Written and Directed by Mike Leigh
Running time 129 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Another Year is one of those slice of life flicks, showing snippets of certain days to give a grand picture of life. We get each season as a window into characters and their lives.
First up is Spring. Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) are a happily married couple living an upper middle-class existence in London. Though it is becoming the autumn of their lives, the two are very much in love and content with the world they have chiseled out. Tom is a geologist working on environmental impacts of construction projects. Gerri is a counselor working for the public health. Gerri's best bud at work is Mary (Lesley Manville) a very lonely, twice-divorced middle-aged woman looking for love and finding solace at the bottom of a wine bottle. Joe (Peter Wight) is Tom and Gerri's son, who is 30 and lamenting the fact that all his friends are getting married while he still hasn't found the right woman.
We cut to Summer and a backyard barbecue. Ken is a family friend who comes to town. He's a giant of a man, struggling with weight and alcohol. He has a thing for Mary while Mary spurns his advances. Mary gets drunk and makes a clumsy pass at Joe which is equal parts sad and funny. In Autumn, Joe comes home with his new girlfriend Katie. When Mary comes over, she is upset that Joe never called her. She becomes even more upset when she sees that Joe has found another. Winter begins with a tragic death and the realization by Mary that her life is not what she thinks it is and that her pettiness may have cost her more than just friendship.
Another Year is another art house film that will have little appeal outside that audience. Though it feels like an 'important piece of cinema' the end result is weaker than expected. Michael Leigh made one of my favorite films Happy-Go-Lucky. The man has been getting awards for years but this time out he just does not deliver the emotional punch needed.
The biggest find of Another Year is Lesley Manville. She is just brilliant playing a character who is wounded and bitter yet hopeful. She has some major problems but has the stubbornness not to confront them. The final realization by her is heartbreaking without saying a word. Just an amazing bit of acting.
Though Jim Broadbent is the star, he doesn't give much of a star turn here. His character never changes, never has a snippy moment. He is almost a simpleton with a goofy smile. One just wants more from the character.
Another Year is a tale of joyful sadness, filled with equal parts companionship and loneliness. As it runs the gamut of emotions, while never over staying its welcome. While not a great film, it is a strong diversion.