Mike Leigh’s ANOTHER YEAR is, simply put, generous and amazing. It’s lovely. It’s heartbreaking. It’s been called his best film, and I’m not sure I disagree. Structured around the seasons, stitched together by repetition – scenes of two primary characters, a long-time married couple gardening in a huge community garden – Leigh essentially looks at time as it stretches across very different lives within one small group of friends: those lives that are beautifully stable, and those that are definitively … not.
The stable lives belong to Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen). Both actors are Leigh veterans, and their familiar faces inspire memories of other indelible performances: Sheen as Shirley in HIGH HOPES (1988), Broadbent as W.S. Gilbert in TOPSY TURVY (1999). This film is told almost entirely without plot but instead with simple through lines. Mary (the brilliant Lesley Manville), for instance, the “unstable life” most closely profiled, talks about buying a car in the Spring, talks about it more in the Summer, buys it and drives it in the Autumn, and sheds it by Winter. Tom and Gerri’s son is without a partner, and then finds one, his love life the topic of conversation whenever he sees his parents through the entire film. These threads, along with mounting tensions in relationships, new situations, and a sad interaction with Tom’s extended family provide enough drama to keep us interested. The characters are mined so much more deeply than is typical in American cinema; we spend so much time in long dialogue scenes, or silent scenes, simply watching a quiet moment, that we really do come to know them. It’s an examination of ordinary happy lives – the peace, quiet, almost boredom, and the tumult that inevitably disturbs that silence in any given set of friends and family.
See the trailer here: