Writer/director Mike Leigh's latest drama is an intimate look into the life of Tom and Gerri, a middle-aged, middle-class London couple that literally transpires over the course of a year. Divided into the four seasons, "Another Year" examines the impact and contrast of Tom & Gerri's happy, content life with the lives of their friends Mary and Ken as well as their son, Joe. The brilliant cast is led by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as Tom and Gerri.
Mary's life has been a series of failures and she clings to the warmth of her friend's marriage as a lifeline with one hand on the rope and the other wrapped perpetually around a wine glass. Played by Leslie Manville, Mary's downward spiral is hard to watch but heartbreakingly real. It's the standout performance of the film. Ken(Peter Wight), on the other hand has also had his failures. However, instead of fooling himself into thinking he's still got a chance at happiness, he's resigned himself to being a chain smoking, overweight drunk. Ken's attempt at courting Mary is only one of the many painful scenes throughout the film.
The counterbalance to the heartbreak and pain is the positive anchor of Tom & Gerri. Theirs' is such a strong, happy marriage that it almost falls into caricature. Can anyone be that happy? And can that happiness be absorbed by others? Credit Mr. Leigh with casting actors that never look or feel like they're acting. Furthermore, directing them with an improvisational style that gives the viewer a sense of watching real people navigate their lives... for better or worse.