Another Year (12A)

The ViewNewcastle Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/11/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 129 mins

Impressively directed and emotionally engaging, Mike Leigh's latest drama is sharply written and features a BAFTA-worthy performance from Lesley Manville, but it's also something of a misery-fest and some of the characters skirt uncomfortably close to caricature.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Mike Leigh, Another Year is set over four seasons and stars Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as Tom and Gerri, a contented middle-aged couple who enjoy their jobs, live in a nice house in suburban London and spend their free time happily tending their allotment. Over the course of the year they are frequently visited by Gerri's fifty-something friend Mary (Lesley Manville), a single woman who tries to hide her unhappiness by drinking too much.

When Tom's overweight, equally lonely best friend Ken (Peter Wight) comes round, it's clear he's attracted to Mary and Tom and Gerri hope that they might hit it off. However, Mary has developed an inappropriate crush on their 30-year-old son Joe (Oliver Maltman) and reacts badly when Joe brings his girlfriend (Karina Fernandez) round to meet his parents.

The Good
Lesley Manville is terrific as Mary, delivering a heartbreaking performance that feels painfully real and will almost certainly garner her some awards attention come nomination time. Sheen and Broadbent are equally good and there's strong support from both Maltman and Wight as well as a memorable cameo from Imelda Staunton as one of Gerri's depressed patients.

Though there's very little in the way of actual plot, Leigh orchestrates several scenes that are all the more powerful for what's left unsaid – for example, we sense that Ken and Mary could actually be very good for each other, but she's physically repulsed by him, perhaps because his situation so closely mirrors her own.

The Bad
Aside from the fact that it's thoroughly depressing (there is some humour but it's the cringe-inducing kind), the biggest problem with the film is that Tom and Gerri are too close to caricature, in that their emotional state never varies from general happy-go-lucky cheeriness, which eventually begins to look like obliviousness or at least insensitivity towards the obvious pain and misery of their friends. At any rate, you long for a scene where they at least acknowledge Mary's problems when the two of them are alone.

Worth seeing?
Another Year is familiar ground for Mike Leigh (perhaps overly so), but it's worth seeing for what is certain to be a BAFTA-nominated performance from Lesley Manville.

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Another Year (12A)
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Content updated: 12/05/2012 09:50

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