Another Year

  • Film
  • Comedy drama
Mike Leigh isn’t the sort of filmmaker to make major departures with each new film, to decide suddenly to experiment with sci-fi or set an entire film in a broom cupboard. He can certainly surprise, as with the hellish urban odyssey of ‘Naked’ or the Victorian operatics of ‘Topsy-Turvy’, but mostly this 67-year-old British director makes contemporary, humane dramas about fictional ordinary folk and, from film to film, gently builds on themes and interests relating to how, why and where we live our lives today.

But there’s a cyclical, contemplative tone to ‘Another Year’ that’s unfamiliar, especially after the short, sharp energy bursts of ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’ and the climactic tragedy of ‘Vera Drake’. Like ‘Life Is Sweet’ or ‘All or Nothing’, it’s another film that warmly observes a married couple, their family and their relations with themselves and the outside world. Yet there’s a wisdom and restraint to this film and a confidence of purpose that makes it Leigh’s most mature work to date.

It follows a year in the life of a sixtysomething couple, Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen). He’s a commercial geologist; she’s an NHS therapist, a member of ‘the caring professions’, says her husband, adding jokingly, ‘I don’t care.’ They live together in a home on a quiet street somewhere in suburbia that reflects their settled, earthy personalities. They’re social creatures, and it’s their interaction with friends and family that Leigh focuses on, mostly in their home, over lunch, dinner or a drink at their kitchen table.

Through Tom and Gerri, we meet others at close quarters. Some, we encounter briefly, such as Gerri’s depressed patient, Janet (Imelda Staunton), or a friend, Jack (Phil Davis), with an absent, troubled wife. Others, we come to know better. There’s their old friend Ken (Peter Wight), who visits from the North during the summer and masks an unhappy personal life with ample smoking, drinking and eating, and their son, Joe (Oliver Maltman), a balanced professional who seems sanguine about being single and pops round to see them at home or at their allotment.

It’s at the latter where we see Tom and Gerri at work each season, their gardening offering a nod to the film’s sense of time passing, cycles turning and life going by as we move through spring, summer and winter, each chapter titled as such. Later on, during a beautifully filmed, sombre winter trip to a funeral in Derby, we meet Ronnie (David Bradley), Tom’s older brother, a quiet, bereaved man, a world away in experience and aura from his sibling. Gary Yershon’s meditative, sometimes jaunty score adds to the air of everyday resignation, while cinematographer Dick Pope offers a number of quietly sly framings and makes the most of the story’s seasonal changes.

Each of Tom and Gerri’s friends and family throw light on how stable and contented Tom and Gerri’s lives are, and vice versa. But none more so than Mary (Lesley Manville), a colleague of Gerri, a secretary, a little younger, and a woman whose self-image is all askew. She’s single and unhappy, with a traumatic romantic history, but tries to hide it through mania, wishful thinking, delusions about her age and, again, alcohol. Mary also behaves badly, and a run-in with someone close to Tom and Gerri tests their patience, causing Mary to be temporarily exiled from their welcoming nest.

Mary emerges as the film’s great tragedy, the embodiment of Gerri’s comment: ‘Life’s not always kind, is it?’ Her presence turns ‘Another Year’ from a study of contentment into a portrait of loneliness and longing. Mary tests the patience of both her friends and us, bringing us to another of Leigh’s chief interests: the limits of compassion. How far can we go to help others? Is there always an element of self-interest to caring? And why do we seek comfort in those who can’t offer it? They are all questions that ring in our ears as the film closes on a powerful, open image. It reminds us of Manville’s quietly devastating performance and the stellar work of her fellow cast.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday November 5 2010
Duration: 129 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Mike Leigh
Screenwriter: Mike Leigh
Cast: Lesley Manville
Ruth Sheen
Phil Davis
Imelda Staunton
Jim Broadbent
LiveReviews|84
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Andrea Rogers

I feel so at odds with reviews. I adore Mike Leigh's films usually but found this stunted, I did not believe ANY of the characters at all. The smug self- serving Sheen would never be with that man Broadbent in my view.....just awful!!!!

Anna

This movie is about indifference. I think this movie is also about sort of pity but from a high position - condescension - is it needed or good? What makes people condescend to others? And why did Mary tolerate such condescending treatment? I think she just didn't realize that it was in such a way her "friends" treated her. She sincerely thought they were her friends until maybe the last moment - I think it's such a happy ending, yes - and I'm sure this realization will let her NOT tolerate such treatment from these people, and I think after the final scene in the movie she'll just tell them what terrible people she thinks they are and leave their house to find real friends!

Anna

This movie is about indifference. I think this movie is also about sort of pity but from a high position - condescension - is it needed or good? What makes people condescend to others? And why did Mary tolerate such condescending treatment? I think she just didn't realize that it was in such a way her "friends" treated her. She sincerely thought they were her friends until maybe the last moment - I think it's such a happy ending, yes - and I'm sure this realization will let her NOT tolerate such treatment from these people, and I think after the final scene in the movie she'll just tell them what terrible people she thinks they are and leave their house to find real friends!

Barnaby

Although it was a few years ago since I've seen this film (haven't been able to see it since). I vividly remember it as being a thouroughly patronising formulaic Mike Leigh film with the usual cast of the Mike Leigh Players. This I hasten to add is not because I'm not an admirer of his work (I loved Nut's in May, Bleakmoments and Life is Sweet) I just can't understand why Mike leigh feels the need to centred most of the action on two very smug self centred people who seem to get a kick out of befriending inadequate people who have a major personal problem of one kind or another. Is this in order to show how well rounded and thoroughly understanding a guardian reading middle class couple can be or having the right kind of secure jobs in life give you the qualifications to play social worker with everyone you come in contact with who have a different lifestyle to you? I don't know, all I do know is it's a shame that the climax of the film had to centre on their hostile treatment of Mary through excomunicating her from there circle because she had the audacity to show her feelings in front of their presouse son and his vacuous new girlfriend. Conveneantly refusing to be aware of the selfcentred Son's behavour in leading her up the garden path in the first place. I can't say I've seen such cruelty in a ML picture since Naked and found it made for very uncomfortable viewing. I do hope Mike Leigh will have the temerity to listen to his public when making his next film and may perhaps come up with something a little less predictable with some fresh talent.

Goldfish64

It's a really good movie. I am not English, either, but have been living in England for some time and I think it captured the details of a regular life pretty well. I see a lot of reactions and body language that you might not encounter outside England (the rest of us out there are more expressive and more vocal). No, I did not think the couple were saints, I thought they were trying their best to be nice...but are human at times. They looked so contented which was annoying slightly; as if they did not need anybody else and were a cut-above the rest who need them. I felt an air of smugness about them. An interesting movie; esp, for people who live or lived in the United Kingdom.

rodge

I think you're all worrying too much about this film. You must know the way Mr Leigh works. He just tells them the situation and gets them to think up lines and act them out. So it's bound to be a bit random and in this case rather dreary.

CPEBach

Nina - I am in total agreement. I was confused too: initially I thought that there was no possibility that Mr Leigh could have designed Tom and Gerri as he had and consider them 'heroes'. But then I read an interview with him and that's exactly what he considered them to be. This pair of vicious, two-faced, smug, well-heeled hippies fed their friends' alcohol habits, made minimal effort to help them survive their very obvious crises, and then ultimately stabbed them in the face. I'd have bought Mary a new motor if she'd bottled the pair of them. Plot aside, the film was indeed too long. (But better than being stuck on a plane with Tom on one side and Gerri on the other, I suppose).

Nina

Just saw this on the plane. Yawn...what a waste of two hours, even if it was spent in a metal box. I agree with everyone who stated that the lead pair - the pair that so seemed to be made the 'heroes' were a pair of cruel, boring, self indulgent, patronising and brutally smug characters. I left this film feeling very confused...did Leigh want me to feel thai way over his leads?? And God, the son and his irritating girlfriend were just the worst...I wanted poor Mary to bottle her at one point. I felt Mary was the real hero of the story, it's just a shame that the script turned her into a hideous cliche of what it's like to be a real person with real faults... 2 stars for the effort put in.

Sue

I can't believe this film received such positive reviews - poor Mary has made a few unfortunate choices but has, she thinks, good friends in Tom and Gerri. Unfortunately she has no idea that this smug, patronising couple are cruel and merciless. The relationship is no friendship. It appears they tolerate Mary for her entertainment value, fuel her with alcohol which heightens the contrast between her apparent emotional state and thiers, and feel smug that they will never have to be her. An unbearably 'upbeat' and patronising new daughter in law is the catalyst for the incident that brings things to a head "this is my family, Mary". A sad statement on life which seems to suggest those who find the right mate early in life are the only ones content with their lives as they age.

rodge

Oh dear, I wanted to like Mr Leigh's film but it was overly long, annoying music and an utterly unbelievable script/performance from Maggie. Sorry. On the positive, yet another superb effort from Mr Broadbent.

Peter van der Sluijs

One of those love it or hate it movies.I loved it. I really like the ragged, random Mike Leigh approach to film making. In the opening sequence he creates a clear expectation that the movie will be about the patient. Nah. That's boring. Let's make a movie about the counsellor instead.

Peter van der Sluijs

One of those love it or hate it movies.I loved it. I really like the ragged, random Mike Leigh approach to film making. In the opening sequence he creates a clear expectation that the movie will be about the patient. Nah. That's boring. Let's make a movie about the counsellor instead.

Mandy

Peter Wights performance was so brilliant I could feel his indigestion. Manville' performance was beyond brilliant BUT other than the pleasure of their acting abilities there was little to recommend this film...rated in terms of time well spent this film gets a 1* The only thoughts it provokes is about the apparently 'deserving' misery of status beyond being married

Marg

Hated it. Big message - couples are happy, singles are neurotic alcoholic messes. Unbearably smug couple. Mary so over-acted, presume she was nominated for the Razzies?

Everly

Most harsh reality in this movie is the comparison of what people are like in what they do for living and what they do in life: one counsels the woebegone and sleepless by demanding family secrets; another helps those poor and without English capabilities about to be evicted from their homes. Yet: when a woman enters their homes who speaks English but has no mate, no house to call her own, no children, and a secretarial job----she is only the cushion for their comfort. Her poverty and loneliness buoy them up; she makes them feel lucky. She can sob at their chests and beg for love and luck: they coolly suggest counselors and 'perhaps giving her a ring sometime.' In short, the way the luckies treat the unlucky one in this film makes the luckies look like Nazis, determined to have a scapegoat to punish. Masterful, incisive criticism of the do-gooders with degrees in this world; it is about as amply rich as a tale showing the family law judge pointing out all the happy photographs of adoptions she has presided over---but also showing her quickly turning her back when she is asked how many children have been shepherded, miserable, from their schools and homes with police escorts to comply with forced 'custody' rightments. A film to see, and admire.

MargaretinOz

I'm not English so all the more subtle markers about class are lost on me. What's not lost is that people make chpices ANC live with the consequences, and sometimes it works put and sometimes, it's not so pretty. The alcoholic behzviour of the two lonely people should not be viewed as a consequence of their unhappiness as it was adding immeasurably to their problems, counseling might help but then so would AA. As an older woman than me said to her elderly companion. Well, that didn't teach me anything new. Don't be lonely and don't get old! Still, I found it meerisingly good. 4 stars

Janus

hekovian is my adjective of choice for this one. Slow close ups. Revolting but totally real people. It is all as inexorable as are the seasons. The acting, without exception, was brilliant. The editing was injudicious and needs 30 minutes off. No conclusions, not all the (Mary) facts spelt out = a counsellor's film.

Bartleby

Curious that my suggestion that some of the anti-Mike Leigh reviews here were the work of one person was deemed inappropriate and removed! I stand by my comments and reiterate that if you like Mike Leigh's work then this is a superb film. If you don't like then go see something else.

Bartleby

Curious that my suggestion that some of the anti-Mike Leigh reviews here were the work of one person was deemed inappropriate and removed! I stand by my comments and reiterate that if you like Mike Leigh's work then this is a superb film. If you don't like then go see something else.

Dee

I have seen this film in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg... a tight arsed bourgois society.... far removed from British liberal and working to middle class people... living out their lives in answer to their emotions and status in in society. Mike Leigh seems to capture how we mere mortals function... in the kitchen of a 'I'm comfortable because I'm not a loser' type of couple".... well meaning but conforming to what is safe and safer. The fat man and the secretary (both 'losers') are the 'real' people in this drama... letting go of their fears, hopes and despair. And, after all, most of us find ourselves in life, to some extent, on the other side of the fence! These are God's children!

lindeanlad

What cinema should be - thought-provoking, deeply affecting, powerfully acted and superbly produced. Stunning.

Paul

Don't waste your precious time! It gives you the impression that life in Britain is reduced to a "cup of tea" For the first time in my life I've heard the public giggling when the tragedy was over ... and that was a natural reaction at the "experts" reviews. By the way, I am a tourist fanatical about British films

filmscholar

Plotless in Metroland. Another dose of Mike Leigh miserabilism, essentially theatre rather than cinema...way too many turgid dialogue-laden scenes. Characters (e.g the excellent Imelda Staunton) capture the screen then disappear. We attend the funeral of someone we've never met, Pinteresque dialogue (but sub-Pinter) purports to show us human tragedy but merely show us tedium. I've heard better dialogue on a London bus. I think Mr.Leigh has exhausted his oeuvre. You want tragedy then read Beckett. This film is dreadful.

DV

The film is not about class, for me - it's about being lucky (or not) in love, and alcoholism.

David

Why has almost nobody got the courage to say this film is tedious and boring. There's no plot and no development of the characters. Real life is preferable. Don't wast your time watching it. PS I'm 63 so don't say it takes maturity to appreciate it. Oops - perhaps I'm not mature yet.

Bartleby

And for those that think the lower class are so badly characterised why not write your own treatment, get some finance and make a proper truthful film about the way it really is.... That'll really show Mike Leigh!

Bartleby

And for those that think the lower class are so badly characterised why not write your own treatment, get some finance and make a proper truthful film about the way it really is.... That'll really show Mike Leigh!

DV

Of course all films have humanity, but to what degree? To all those ML haters - good storytelling of this type let's the audience think and fill in the gaps - different people fill in those gaps according to their own experiences in life...fair enough. But if you hate ML so much, why go to see his latest film, having probably seen a trailer? After all, by going you are further lining his 'middle classed' pockets. Discuss.

arbogast

For what it's worth (nothing, I suspect) I am neither middle-class nor a resident of Hampstead. I just love films. And this is a great film. I'm not usually a fan of Mike Leigh, but I thought 'Another Year' was truly excellent. It has a quality - something called 'humanity', I suppose, and there's not much of that about these days. How dare bumeholee use the phrase 'even Shane Meadows'. Shane Meadows is the greatest living English film-maker.

arbogast

For what it's worth (nothing, I suspect) I am neither middle-class nor a resident of Hampstead. I just love films. And this is a great film. I'm not usually a fan of Mike Leigh, but I thought 'Another Year' was truly excellent. It has a quality - something called 'humanity', I suppose, and there's not much of that about these days. How dare bumeholee use the phrase 'even Shane Meadows'. Shane Meadows is the greatest living English film-maker.

Bartleby

Someone seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time here rubbishing this film under various names. Perhaps they failed the audition...

Bartleby

Someone seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time here rubbishing this film under various names. Perhaps they failed the audition...

WilliamH

Because you are so middle-class You are surprised that the poor are kind Solicitous; sometimes they shout You like to read Polly Toynbee Even your violence is false It leaves a taste of saccharine Because it's an aberration – It's not from the world that you see Little pockets of love, maybe An oboe, or a frigging harp Winter on the allotment Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah People being so fucking nice I would rather drive six-inch nails Slowly into my hands than watch Your trite, insipid cinema The poor are bad, greedy, stupid Like the rich – some of them – and some Of the wealthy are not guilty – Your approach is one-size-fits-all It's shapeless, like a woolly hat There's no caffeine, no guts to it Like coco, or camomile tea Old bollocks, bought from a church hall

Gulliver Tolchock

A magnificent film from a film-maker in total command of the medium. The final shot is one of the most moving endings I have ever seen. This is cinema at its best.

Gulliver Tolchock

A magnificent film from a film-maker in total command of the medium. The final shot is one of the most moving endings I have ever seen. This is cinema at its best.

Gordon Grant

I agree with David's analysis. A great film for the critics but quite frankly it was too long and unbeleivable - particularly Tom and Gerri's relationships with Ken and Mary. In real life these dysfunctional friends would have been gradually distanced over time and replaced with friends that were more in tune with Tom and Gerri's aspirations. I didn;t believe that the relationship would have continued for so long without a serious falling out. And the film was far too long. At the end as we faded out over the pathetic figure of Mary it seemed to me that Mike Leigh had left no hope for the middle classes. Either we examine our navals till we die, or we sink into alcoholism. There was no room for invention, or re-invention of our selves. Actually come to think of it, the film was really a warning to anyone comfortable in late middle age. Go out and do sometihng - anything - to challenge yourself. Even Tom and Gerri were insufferable. I coudlnt like them.

David

I feel like declaring, "The emperor is wearing no clothes". I wonder if those who rate this film highly wish to show their literary or artistic sophistication and appreciation of what lesser mortals find a tedious and rather pointless plot (or lack of plot). I can't fault the actors and at times they captured some emotional moments well. Humour? Well a few moments of moments of mild sardonic droll. The behaviour portrayed by Tom and Gerri was rather distasteful in that they pasted over the weaknesses of their disfunctional friends without ever challenging them - rather they seemed to cultivate the weaknesses (over feeding the fat, over lubricating the drinkers, building up the hopes of the love forlorn etc). The redeeming feature if there is one might be its "marmite" effect: it seems you love it or hate it. I wouldn't recomment it but perhaps you've got to give it a go now to find out for yourself. You can always walk out if you find it as dull as I did. I stuck it to the end and assumed it must develop at some point, but not for me.

DV

A very enjoyable film. I've not yet seen a movie by Mike Leigh that has disappointed. Tom and Gerri didn't seem smug to me - just happy. (The bastards!!!) The main characters fall into two categories - those that have been lucky in love, and those that haven't, who then turn to the bottle. I could relate to both at different stages. Mary was highly amusing in the first half of the film (I've definitely met women like her), and I did feel sorry for her later, but she did need help from someone other than Gerri - a detached professional. (And she had made such an arse of herself.) As ever, ML's films are based on characters - we're not supposed to like all of them, but I came away from the film on a high, not caused by the ending, but by the depth of understanding that ML and his cast bring to their characters.

sookay

I agree with so many of you, I thought this was a terrible film, cannot for the life of me understand all the aclaim. ?? It seemed so patronising, and who. in this miserable dirge of a film, are we to empathise with ? For me it was Mary, but it would have been a much more interesting film - if she had ended up poisoning her ghastly 'friends' - I thought it was ugly, dreary beyond belief, and tragic...is this really what the UK middle class thinks is 'a great film' God help us !

Sticky

Fab film and an outstanding perfomance from Lesley Manville as Mary, extremely funny and very moving. She's got to be odds-on for at least a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars.

Sticky

Fab film and an outstanding perfomance from Lesley Manville as Mary, extremely funny and very moving. She's got to be odds-on for at least a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars.

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