Janet: Nothing changes.
Aging is one of those human experiences that, if we’re fortunate enough to get up there that is, is essentially universal in theory. In practice though, some of us age much more gracefully than others. Some of us age while our dreams come true around us, while others do so while watching each of their dreams fall victim to time. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to choose how well life works out for us, so when the years continue to pass, each one has the potential to reinforce what we do or don’t have in our lives. “Another Year” is British filmmaker Mike Leigh’s specific look at one of these years and, in its delightful and touching execution, it contemplates the cruel little imbalances life has to offer.
There is a lot of eating in “Another Year” and all the glasses at the table are quite distinctly either half empty of half full. The table itself belongs to Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), a couple who have been together for more than 30 years, who are still just as adorable with each other today as the combination of their names suggests they should be. They are joined more often than not at their table by old friends like Mary (a heartbreaking Lesley Manville), who tells herself she is happy alone but drinks to forget she is actually alone whenever she can, and Ken (Peter Wright), who cannot fathom retiring because then he truly won’t have anything at all to do with his time. Sometimes their son, Joe (Oliver Maltman) stops by too. At 30, he hasn’t met anyone special yet and with such a great example of long lasting love to live up to, you know he knows he is missing out. The dinner conversation is never boring and, thanks to the incredible ensemble, always fascinating and enlightening.
Tom and Gerri garden together. “Another Year” follows their planting cycle from the planting itself to the period of growth, through the harvesting in the fall and finally the inevitable death in the winter. They have been planting in this garden for years, just as Leigh has been making movies for years. And if the relaxed, subtly aware tone of Leigh’s latest work tells me anything, it is that he too knows that all you can do is plant the seed and hope it grows to be strong, tall and surrounded by flowers.
Review by Joseph Bélanger