Another Year is often as depressing as its title. Of course, this being a Mike Leigh production, that's the point.
The veteran British filmmaker behind such fare as Naked, Secrets & Lies and Happy-Go-Luckyagain immerses his working-class characters in the messiness of everyday life, this time focusing his neorealist gaze on Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and Tom (Jim Broadbent), happily married sixtysomethings who revel in their long, still-evolving relationship and in simple pleasures like tending their garden. The couple also takes solace in helping others, a generosity that extends from their day jobs — Tom is a geologist, Gerry a medical counselor — to their friends and family.
But the duo's patience is tested by Gerri's longtime coworker and friend, Mary (Lesley Manville), a fortysomething single woman desperate to find the kind of loving relationship she sees in Gerri and Tom's union and whose needy, garish personality repels less empathic human beings. Even Mary's once-enticing physical assets are beginning to fade, a development she awkwardly combats by trying to attract younger men, one of whom is Tom and Gerri's 30-year-old son, Joe (Oliver Maltman).
Other friends- and family-related subplots shift in and out of the frame as Leigh's rich narrative moves from one season to another — yes, it's set over one year — but it's Mary's overbearing presence that dominates the film. Manville is an expressive wonder as a lonely women who tries anything and everything to find happiness. And, as is the case in nearly all of Leigh's actor-friendly films, the rest of the cast is equally strong.
But be warned: Another Year is nearly as unbearable as Manville's Mary. Grade: B-
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