From writer/director Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky and Vera Drake) comes another superbly acted mini-drama - Another Year, a movie that follows several seemingly ordinary people through the ups and downs of an ordinary year. While the film features great performances, it appears Leigh actually went out of his way to make a movie that will be forgotten in, yes, another year.
Another Year focuses on the lives of married couple Tom and Gerrie Hepple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) and their friend Mary (Lesley Manville). The Hepples are happily married and have a grown-up son named Joe, but Mary is middle-aged, lonely and depressed, and at times desperate to find a man to settle down with.
All three leads turn in great performances, but it's Manville who steals the show with her portrayal of a complex, emotionally tragic character. The acting is supported by a great, Oscar-nominated script by Leigh; the movie is worth seeing simply for its natural yet engaging dialogue and the actors who bring it to life.
As well written as Another Year is, however, the movie itself is unremarkable if only for the fact it isn't intended to be. The movie is a snapshot of a family's life; the overarching story doesn't matter as much as what happens along the way. But that's the problem. There isn't an overarching story, at least not a fully realized one.
The screenplay is terrific, but not unlike Happy-Go-Lucky, the characters, as interesting as they are, can be obnoxious. Manville's performance is Oscar worthy, and yet the character she plays is obnoxious and pathetic.
Great for accolades, not so great for audience entertainment.
Another Year is exactly what the title suggests; a passing fancy that Mike Leigh latched onto for one reason or another. It is the movie he set out to make, but that doesn't mean he should be congratulated for it. Another Year has great writing and acting, but beyond that it's a movie that has no greater purpose. For that reason, Leigh fails to take advantage of the pieces with which he had to work.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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