Mike Leigh returns with a measured, powerful and wholly realistic human drama.
Another Year centres on Tom and Gerry (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), a blissfully happy married couple and their unconventional, unhappy friends and relatives.
Mary (Lesley Manville), Gerry’s wayward, lonely co-worker, reeks desperation, but hides it underneath her bubbly and free-spirited mask. Mary has a deep love for the life Tom and Gerry lead and wants nothing more than to have someone to simply confide in.
However, when her hidden-desire for their son Joe (Oliver Maltman) results in her mocking his new girlfriend Katie (Karina Fernandez), she is subtly rejected by the household, which leads to her ultimate breakdown.
Mike Leigh’s direction is flawless. Lingering shots may feel uncomfortable to viewers on the outside, but are commonplace in the lives of the characters on screen. By focusing on one single-day per calendar season, Another Year provides a wholly honest insight into the workings of a older couple and their lonely, single friends.
Taking a laid back and detached approach, Leigh let the film’s story and characters breathe, never infringing upon a scene or piece of dialogue. The lack of soundtrack went unnoticed, as it would have deterred from the emotional impact each scene had upon the viewer.
Lesley Manville is pitch-perfect as wayward Mary, making the character convincing, yet never over-the-top. Manville slipped into the character of Mary from the get-go, always pushing her characters desperation to the centre of the film, no matter how many sub plots came and went and never slipping into a caricature.
Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen complimented each other down to a tee, Gerry coming across as a down-to-earth family wife, with a stern, protective inside. Tom is witty, able to glaze over the depressing moments of life, which comes with both good and bad aspects.
The supporting cast each give convincing and afflicting performances and suitably complement the older actors. Even Imelda Staunton’s cameo role towards the start of the film as a troubled mother has an impact on the overall tone and nature of the film.
Another Year is an almost perfect slice of British cinema, digging behind-the-scenes of a quint-essential family in the heart of Britain and bringing to light their turbulent, drab and ultimately tragic lives. Tremendous.