“Another Year,” the new kitchen-sink drama from British director Mike Leigh should more accurately be titled “Look at All the Lonely People.” A nicely rendered portrait of forlorn folks, it’s as if Leigh tried to make a film as dour as his last movie, “Happy-Go-Lucky,” was effervescent.
Much of the action in “Another Year” revolves around the home of Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), a happy couple just a few years shy of retirement. With open arms and open hearts they welcome a diverse cast of characters — people as unstable as they are stable — into their home, including Gerri’s desperately unhappy co-worker Mary (Lesley Manville) and Tom’s old friend Ken (Peter Wight). Stirred into the mix are the couple’s geeky son (Oliver Maltman), his girlfriend (Karina Fernandez) and Tom’s recently widowed brother (“Harry Potter’s” David Bradley).
As the title suggests, “Another Year” takes place over the course of a year, divided into four sections, each representing a season. Presented as a slice-of-life look at this group of people — very light on plot but heavy on character — it has little to do with the passing of time, except to imply that time doesn’t really heal all wounds, but the loose structure gives form to the otherwise shapeless, although entertaining, story.
Performances rich in nuance abound — Broadbent is his usually effortless self and Sheen is warm and watchable — but it is Lesley Manville who steals the show. Her take on Mary is the personification of dissatisfaction and distress and dominates the movie.
“Another Year” isn’t a traditional narrative but like the best of Leigh’s films it is unflinching in its portrayal of real — not reel — life.