By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2010--'ANOTHER YEAR'  Send This Review to a Friend

British writer-director Mike Leigh’s films have the power to trenchantly zero in on lives, especially when he is dealing with ordinary folk. His “Another Year,” shown at the 2010 New York Film Festival is true to form. In its understated, observant manner it follows a family and friends through relationships and events over the course of a year, and along the way we gain insights into the joys and problems endured--the happiness, the loneliness, birth and death.

All of the actors are well chosen and extremely efficient in developing the respective characters they play. But one is a very special standout. Lesley Manville in the role of Mary can break your heart.

The focus is on a happily married couple Gerri (Ruth Sheen), who works as a medical counselor, and Tom (Jim Broadbent), a geologist. Mary is a colleague of Gerri’s, and when she visits, we get an initial candid portrait of how lonely and miserable she is. The impression is compounded later in the film, and one comes away feeling deeply for Mary, thanks to the extraordinary and convincing performance of Manville, who has been impressive in other pictures by Leigh. She steals the film with her devastating scenes.

This is not to say the film does not also belong to the rest of the cast portraying the assortment of characters under the Leigh’s microscope. Plaudits are due Peter Wright, Oliver Maltman, David Bradley, Karina Fernandez, Martin Savage, Michele Austin, Phil Davis, Stuart McQuarrie and Imelda Staunton.

There is pleasure in following the character assortment and in enjoying those who lives are basically happy. But there is also sadness in seeing the down side for those whose lives are scarred one way or another. Leigh is a truth-seeker, and the reality is not always pretty. A Sony Pictures Classics release.


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