Another year, four shades of brilliance

by David Dixon

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Tom and Gerri are a happily married couple whose warm and inviting home provides refuge for those they care about. Most of their friends and family are depressed and disturbed individuals who yearn for a better life. Tom and Gerri listen to their problems and treat them with compassion and good-natured humor.

Mike Leigh’s film “Another Year” does not develop in a stereotypically cinematic fashion. Instead, the characters reveal more and more about their present state as four seasons come and go. To his credit, Leigh allows the audience to empathize with relatively normal people at the center of the story. In fact, nearly all of the characters are sympathetic and likeable in one way or another.

The cast is full of actors and actresses who manage to seamlessly create their roles by giving them three-dimensional personalities. Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent depicts Tom as a husband who is full of vigor and quick wit. European Film Award winner Ruth Sheen plays Tom’s wife Gerri as a relaxed woman who has unconditional love for those who matter to her.

As great as Broadbent and Sheen are, the person who leaves the biggest impression is Lesley Manville as a very troubled friend named Mary. When introduced, the audience assumes she is an upbeat individual who likes to flirt with men and live in the moment. Several scenes later, she is revealed as a mess of a human being whose happy-go-lucky attitude is a mask for neurosis and depression. Mary could have been played as a downbeat protagonist of a quirky drama, but Manville conveys the maudlin character with dignity and personality.

Leigh’s down-to-earth direction and writing is authentic and surprisingly lively, with the dialogue unconventionally realistic at times. Dick Pope should also be mentioned for his cinematography. He was able to film in a way that was visually appealing without feeling too stylized.

“Another Year” is a sensible drama with a believable cast and indisputable emotion. Although the action on the surface may seem mundane and pedantic, the experience for the viewer is a quietly powerful one.

Movie: Another Year

Directed by: Mike Leigh

Release Date: Jan. 14

Grade: A-

Information on “Another Year” can be found at sonyclassics.com.

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