Another Year (2010)
Also Known As: Untitled Mike Leigh Project
Another Year movie review: Mike Leigh's latest experiment shows off a very likable, well-adjusted, professionally and romantically successful couple played by Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent over the course of one year. During that time, they show waning kindness to friend and co-worker Mary, played by Lesley Manville, who can't seem to get her life right no matter what she tries, is completely self-involved and has a bit too much fondness for wine. There's another male friend played by Peter Wight who is just as pathetic, unmarried, alcoholic and hopeless.
They also have a son who at 30 is single at the outset. Then at some unseen point between spring and summer (or was it summer and autumn?), he magically gets a sweet and boring girlfriend, who Mary immediately despises because she secretly has a crush on the younger man.
Manville is stunning in her role, but her character never grows and learns and just rots before us. It was sad to watch. She was pathetic and seemingly incapable of self-reflection. In the end, she's almost destroyed her friendship with Ruth Sheen's character but seems oblivious. The last shot shows her jealously looking around the dinner table at yet another meal (to which she's basically invited herself) as the happy family sit around being as jovial as ever.If you want to see some lucky, well-adjusted people sit around tolerating unlucky, badly-drawn friends who also happen to be alcoholics, this is your film. Mike Leigh usually works with his actors to build characters and stories through improvisation. Sadly, they seemed to have created interesting characters at the outset, but all of them spend the next two plus hours of the film marching in place, never changing, never growing, experiencing little if any crises except perhaps growing intolerance for Manville.
Why were Sheen and Broadbent so lucky in love? Why did their son magically also find love seemingly without any effort, it just fell into his lap? Are they just lucky, or were the single people in their lives doing something wrong? The only answer Leigh gives is perhaps a fondness for alcohol or other vices by the singletons. We all know that finding love is a crap shoot. Yet here, those who find themselves single in their 50s and unhappy seem to receive special scorn and are given zero chance to improve themselves in this story. The best we get is Sheen telling Manville she needs to seek professional help.
Simplistic, judgmental and a little pointless. Leigh did inspire much thought in me after seeing this. But unfortunately, Leigh's devices here seem incredibly unfair and without merit.
See also Another Year movie trailer:
Cast:Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Imelda Staunton, David Bradley, Stuart McQuarrie