Rated PG-13 for some language, 129 minutes
Superbly-acted British drama "Another Year" channels life over a year
"Another Year" is a film from renowned director Mike Leigh ("Secrets and Lies") that is just now getting it's release in the states and in this area for the new year. Make it a point to see the touching, believable, albeit overlong, drama that's superbly acted, directed and written. It's surprising that the acclaimed film was largely overlooked by Oscars, receiving only a single nomination for its screenplay.
Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) are a happy couple in their sixties, with professional careers and a grown son, but during the course of one year we see that some of their friends are not as happy. Mary (Lesley Manville), of of Gerri's close friends, has been drinking too much since her husband left her. Gerri tried to set her up with Tom's friends Ken (Peter Wight), but it did not work out. Now Gerri is surprised to find Mary flirting with Gerri's son Joe (Oliver Maltman), a man much younger than herself. Mary's emotional state is not helped when she stops by Tom and Gerri's house and meets Joe's new girlfriend.
Mike Leigh's poignant new drama "Another Year" has some nice shades to it; the family issues are familiar Leigh issues and it goes on too long in its second act, but it's definitely worth seeing for the touching, warm performances. It's evident that the cast, all of whom have worked with Leigh in his films over the years, is comfortable with his relaxed, improvisational direction. Unsurprisingly, he elicits the film's strongest performances from the women in the film, something that Leigh is noted for (see Brenda Blethyn in "Secrets and Lies" and Imelda Staunton - who has a brief role here too - in "Vera Drake").
Sheen's straight-laced, caring Gerri grounds the film well, but it's British character actress Lesley Manville, as Gerri's flighty, overemotional best friend that bursts the film open to new territory. It's the type of character that Shelley Winters would've probably played back in the 1950's, and it's a tribute to Manville's remarkably touching perfomance that she steals the film, given that the film is a supporting role. The film's long stretches without her may have the audience missing her, though Leigh's strong direction and story hold up on their own.
Without Manville, the relationship-oriented "Another Year" wouldn't be as much fun, but it's still worth seeing. It's too long, especially in the final act, but you'll have yourself wondering why the deserving Manville wasn't nominated for an Oscar for Supporting Actress.