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Unmissable 5 Stars
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Jim Broadbent
Ruth Sheen
Oliver Maltman
David Bradley
Imelda Staunton
Lesley Manville
Stuart McQuarrie.
Mike Leigh.
Mike Leigh.
Running Time
129 minutes

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5 Star Empire Rating

Another Year
Terrific seasons greetings from Mike Leigh

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Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a therapist, and Tom (Jim Broadbent), a geologist, are happily married, but mildly concerned that their lawyer son, Joe (Oliver Maltman), is single. They don't quite realise how Mary (Lesley Manville), a fragile work colleague of Gerri's, has come to depend on the couple's friendship. Over the course of a year, at Sunday gatherings, Mary makes faux pas which strain the relationship.

Another Year
It’s a good thing that Mike Leigh has such a consistent track record, since he makes films which would be impossible to pitch to a panel of studio execs. The ‘high concept’ of Another Year is four Sunday afternoons in different seasons, focusing on a still-happy, middle-aged couple and their less well-adjusted friends and relations — and not much actually happening.

It’s all about cups of tea in the kitchen or garden after sessions at the allotment, and the surface dialogue is all about trivia: a saga with a used car which turns out to be a disaster, the fellow with an interesting job who has already bored his friends and family with its details to such an extent that he downgrades himself to a hole-digger, genial reminiscences of wilder youth activities at pop festivals or on the football terraces, long-standing jokes and resentments no-one feels the need to explain but which come round over and over. When someone new to the set-up notices that the central couple are called Tom and Gerri, Gerri (Ruth Sheen) deadpans, “We’ve learned to live with it.” That’s as much of a message as the film runs to, and yet it’s rich in humour, suspense and profundity. Because it seems so uneventful — an old friend visits, the son turns up with a new girlfriend, a sister-in-law dies off screen — every tiny incident, line and even look registers.

Throughout his career, Leigh has worked with a series of outstanding actresses in creating characters who have entered the national consciousness: Bev (Alison Steadman) in Abigail’s Party, Cyn (Brenda Blethyn) in Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton), Poppy (Sally Hawkins) in Happy-Go-Lucky. In Another Year, Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent selflessly underplay as a couple who often don’t need to say more than, “Well…” to each other to convey how they feel, allowing Lesley Manville to deliver the knockout performance. Whether getting tipsy and repeating a joke she’s obviously made before (stamping several times and saying, “That’s my carbon footprint”) or fending off an even more desperate singleton (Peter Wight, looking like a public awareness advert for all the symptoms of early cardiac arrest) or disastrously expressing a small disappointment in cutting words when presented with a better-balanced newcomer to the circle, Manville’s Mary is a vivid, unforgettable character.

 Like most of Leigh’s women, Mary verges on archetype or caricature, but is entirely alive and ultimately tragic. There’s an emotional rollercoaster in a single, climactic scene in the ‘winter’ section as a near-cracked-up Mary makes an unexpected visit to mend fences with her friends and finds only Tom’s taciturn, just-widowed, almost-ghostly brother Ronnie (David Bradley) at home, then tries desperately to make conversation with the remote, bewildered man. This is the Leigh method in a nutshell: it’s a sitcom set-up in a drably realistic world, and uses the comedy of embarrassment to dig deep into the psyche. With its structure and rigorous look, this evokes some of the autumnal or wintery achievements of Ingmar Bergman, but in its precise details — without ever losing a sense of these characters as individuals, you keep muttering, “How English” — Another Year may be as close as British cinema can get to the Japanese master of seasonal tea ceremonies and dutifully happy families, Yasujirô Ozu.

Measured in pace, yet thoroughly gripping and completely accessible. The title soft-sells the picture, but it's among the best of this or any year. And Manville should clear some shelf space for well-deserved awards.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Another Year
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What was the point of this film? This film made me depressed on how these people spend their days!! Showing a 1 in a million happy couple, desperate lady who we all se in our lives and so so, I wanted to fall asleep during this movie but it was too boring to sleep through ... More

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Posted by Dirk Diggler 619 at 12:20, 28 May 2011 | Report This Post


Yet another screeching female cartoon from this reliably misogynistic fool. Stop. Making. Films. ... More

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Posted by Crispin_Glover at 09:28, 12 April 2011 | Report This Post

nhassell i agree !!

hey i thought that too. i cancelled my subscrition to empire years ago, i get everything i need from this website. if u could just get rid of kim newman ....... ... More

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Posted by jerkyjudas at 19:05, 30 March 2011 | Report This Post


I too was reminded of Ozu when watching the film which i happen to think was a masterpiece. Manville is just incredible, although often her character seems so real it's difficult to watch the extent of her loneliness unfold- It's a new jewel in British cinema. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by liam_ at 23:34, 10 November 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Not my thing

L: The Great Danton It was boring, t certialny wasn't. The fact that 'Another Year' is little more than a series of awkward social moments and yet is gripping, funny, heartbreaking and endearing is huge testament to the talents Mike Leigh has in drawing performances from his actors - and stands proudly along the likes of his other masterpieces 'Secrets & Lies', 'Topsy Turvy' & 'Vera Drake.' Unsurprisingly the entire cast are completely spot on. Jim Broadbent &... More

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Posted by Qwerty Norris at 13:18, 06 November 2010 | Report This Post


MINOR SPOILER It's the straightforward, everyday, often mundane nature of the characters' dialogue and interactions which make this film the beautiful masterpiece it is, the ordinary desires and hopes of people living with the consequences of the decisions they make and the vagaries of chance that we are all subject to. All involved are outstanding, inhabiting their characters with a fullness and easy conviction you simply don't get in most films - a testament to the actors and Leigh's direct... More

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Posted by Davechoc at 19:42, 01 November 2010 | Report This Post

I was surprised to see Mike Leigh out side my local Cineworld in Dublin last Wednesday. He was checking out the place for the films showing at the Jameson film festival. His films are not really my thing either but I think I might check this one out. ... More

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Posted by keaneye at 13:03, 01 November 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Not my thing

I can't understand why Empire put the reviews that are going to be in the next magazine up online before the films release date. It just means that people that only buy the magazine for the reviews, are just going to save their money and wait for them to come online, mostly, before the mag even hits newstands. Poor business decision, if you ask me. ... More

Posted by nhassell at 15:09, 31 October 2010 | Report This Post

Not my thing

It was boring, the first hour was ok, but than, I felt a sleep... ... More

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Posted by The Great Danton at 09:10, 31 October 2010 | Report This Post

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