Another Year is one of those movies that I throw on my Netflix list when it hits the theaters and, by the time it comes out on DVD and gets delivered to my door, I forget why it caught my attention to begin with. That leads to a perverse feeling of dread of the "I don't want to watch this film but I got it for a reason so I'll watch it anyway but it'll suck." Invariably, the movies that fall into that rental category turn out to be wonderful. So it is with Mike Leigh's latest.
It's a remarkable film, held together less by plot than by theme and mood. Tom and Gerri (true) are a happily married couple, an older couple in their 60's. Played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, the two exude calm and contentment, but they are not shallow, they are not boring and they are real. The subtle looks that Sheen delivers, the occasional fiery outburst by Broadbent, are delicately played but played to the hilt.
The attention-grabber is Lesley Manville as Mary, the irresponsible co-worker of Gerri, who is under the delusion that she's young. Clearly in her mid-50's, Mary is the type who prays desperately that people think she's 30, when at best she could be mistaken for ten years younger. Manville grabs your eye in a way her character only hopes to, and the central scene, when her pipe dreams are blown apart, will leave you breathless.
Another Year shows that "boring" real lives are anything but and, though seen as commonplace, are as rare as can be. How we get to our current state is our own creation; some realize that late, some never at all. Leigh presents a grand movie about the simplest of concepts: people can be happy.