Another Year, director Mike Leigh's new film, is about happiness and sorrow—and why lives end up full of one and not the other.
The film shows a year in the life of Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a late middle-aged, middle-class couple, living contentedly in suburbia.
They have a lovely home with a beautiful garden, many friends and a loving son. They enjoy nothing better than spending the day together at their allotment.
It is a portrait of a couple at ease with themselves, living fulfilled lives.
But Leigh really wants to contrast the couple with their friends and relatives whose lives are dominated by loneliness and pain.
Above all, there is Mary (Lesley Manville), who works as secretary with Gerri.
Mary is desperately lonely. Her life is barely under control and she drinks far too much.
Much of the film’s humour centres on Mary, but she is so pitiable that the laughter has a bitter taste.
So why do some lives turn out like Mary’s and others like Tom and Gerri’s? Is it more than just luck?
Leigh seems to say that we have to make choices and take responsibility for our future. We can’t just live recklessly for the moment in our youth.
Though a finely observed and moving film, it comes too close to moralism for me.
Saying “pull yourself together” doesn’t give enough weight to the enormous pressures that distort, and destroy, many people’s lives in our society.