Another Year: Another Terrific Leigh Film—Movie

Single middle-age women beware! Do not see Another Year alone.  Unless you are at the top of your game, by movie’s end you’ll want to throw yourself off a building. Another Year is that realistic.

Written and directed by Mike Leigh, Another Year is the story of a happily married older middle-aged couple, Gerri and Tom, and their very unhappy friends and relations, told through the changing of the seasons during the course of a year.

In winter we meet Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a psychotherapist, treating the most in-need- of-treatment for depression woman ever portrayed on the screen, Jane (Imelda Staunton).  Staunton’s role is brief, but memorable and shows us how kind and patient Gerri is. In winter we’re also introduced to Gerri’s secretary, Mary (Leslie Manville) and Gerry’s husband, Tom (Jim Broadbent). Spring is Mary’s story and Mary is a mess. Cute, stylish, desperately perky and very unhappily single, Mary is painful to watch.  Summer is the story of Ken (Peter Wight) and continued decline of Mary. Obese, drunk and clueless, Ken is a long-time friend of Tom and is a fatter version of Mary. Autumn introduces us to Ronnie (David Bradley), Tom’s recently widowed brother. Tom seems to keep all of his emotions buried inside and barely says a word. 

As with all Mike Leigh films, Another Year’s actors are called upon to do a lot of improvisation and boy, are they fantastic. However, this movie clearly belongs to Leslie Manville’s Mary. When Manville is on-screen, you can’t take your eyes off her, and even if you want to, Leigh won’t let you. His close-ups on Mary are relentless and force you to witness her pain, shame and heartbreak. Manville can do more with the movement of her mouth or the crinkle of her nose than most actors can do with pages of dialogue. She’s simply amazing and so believable. How she wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award is beyond comprehension. Every single woman over 45 will identify with her. It’s inconceivable to me that Another Year is written by a male. Mike Leigh really gets us women.

Depressing as Another Year is, it’s also full of wit and witty dialogue. And yes, even a sliver of hope.

4 nuggets out of 4


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