Movie review: 'Another Year' feels like an eternity
The opening shot of writer-director Mike Leigh’s “Another Year” is a tight close-up of actress Imelda Staunton’s face, frozen in an expression of seemingly terminal hopelessness and
despair as she inhabits the role of a middle-class British housewife named Janet, reluctantly submitting herself to the probing questions of a doctor and then a family counselor.
When she’s asked where she stands on a one-to-10 scale of happiness, Janet replies, “One,” without even having to think about it.
With the scene underscored by a melancholy string quartet, the relentlessly depressed and depressing mood is set for the remaining two hours of Leigh’s otherwise superbly written and acted study of a group of people coping with the gray shroud of regrets and disappointments that settle over far too many working-class people as they reach middle age and begin taking stock of their lives.
The rich and impoverished have their midlife crises, too, but anyway …
Poor Janet isn’t seen again after those early scenes, and the focus becomes the private life of the counselor, Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and her geological engineer husband, Tom (Jim Broadbent), who seem to live happily and lovingly enough in their modest London home , where they entertain such regulars as Gerri’s wine-swilling, loudly self-pitying divorcee work friend Mary (Lesley Manville) and Tom’s equally hard-drinking, slovenly old buddy Ken (Peter Wight).
Then there is Joe (Oliver Maltman), Tom and Gerri’s pleasant, 30-ish, unmarried son, on whom Mary has a pathetically unrequited crush; Tom’s guarded and angry brother Ronnie (David Bradley), whose wife has just passed away; and Ronnie’s roving, ill-mannered son Carl (Martin Savage), whose wrath is less controlled than that of his father’s.
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