As a result of the superb actors living with their creations for weeks on end, the three-dimensional characters come across as very real individuals and their situations genuine, recognizable. The emotional landscape emerges with insightful, honest revelations. This results in their (and our) intense involvement building throughout the story for these characters never feel like phony inventions. We recognize ourselves, our relatives, our friends, and our colleagues. This time, Leigh considers a pervasive and important subject: companionship and loneliness.
Bringing the topic to life, Another Year focuses on Mary, with a brilliant performance by Lesley Manville, who drinks and smokes too much and who moves toward something close to a nervous breakdown, a trajectory clear from the opening scenes but amazing to watch. Mary, a secretary in a clinic, depends a great deal on her co-worker Gerri, a psychotherapist, and Gerri's husband Tom, a geologist. As acted by Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent, they convincingly present one of the most supportive, loving couples ever in a film. As with nurturing, long relationships, they have a shorthand of glances, comments, and gestures that remind me how nourishing and precious such interaction is.
Though older by many years, Mary fancies and flirts with Tom and Gerri's twenty-something son, Joe. And when he shows up at family gatherings with a perky, young girlfriend, Mary's resentment intrudes to dampen the events. Other friends and workers add texture and variations on the theme. Tom's brother Ronnie figures in immensely powerful scenes, and the film builds to a masterfully orchestrated, deeply moving concluding sequence. For Mike Leigh fans and anyone who loves to study the human condition, Another Year is a treat. At Landmark's Plaza Frontenac Cinema.