FilmJanuary 28, 2011 at 11:57 am

Review: Another Year

Someone get these Brits some Zoloft.

The latest offering from British auteur Mike Leigh focuses on Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), an adorably blissful couple that has seemingly uncovered the secret to everlasting love. The only threat to their ordinary – yet fulfilling – lives is the overwhelming collective melancholy of a host of friends, family and acquaintances. From the loneliness of Gerri’s coworker Mary (Lesley Manville) to the alcoholism of family friend Ken (Peter Wight), negative forces are a constant presence in the couple’s slice of paradise. Leigh follows Tom, Gerri and the brigade of doom through the course of a year, exploring the dichotomy between true love and misery.

Anyone expecting the lighthearted comedy of Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), Leigh’s previous offering, might be disappointed by Another Year’s slow pace and subdued tone. Most scenes are extended conversations, and shots tends to linger (whether on faces or doors or landscapes) long after the talk ceases. In place of action, though, are a brilliantly crafted script and a master class in acting from some of the U.K.’s most established. Sheen’s Gerri is a picture of poise on the outside, always ready to extend a calming word or a cup of tea, yet hints of frustration with her coworker shine through her armor. Manville is a revelation, fully embodying the character of a woman who is at once heartbreaking and infuriating.

Another Year isn’t necessarily a film to enjoy. It is slow and wrenching, and the sadness sticks around long after the final frame. It is, however, more than most films in recent memory, a film worth appreciating. Rarely do such fine writing, acting and directing converge in a single piece. It forces the viewer to consider not only what he has just seen but also his satisfaction with his own life.

3 Stars

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