Tom and Gerri are a rarity in modern movies: a happily married couple. “Another Year” writer/director Mike Leigh knows that means they are the eye of the hurricane, around which their miserable friends and family members swirl. Played with effortless ease by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, Tom and Gerri are a sixtysomething duo in harmonious matrimony since college. They have one child, son Joe (Oliver Maltman), who’s also an anomaly, a firmly grounded young man. All this stability is attractive, yet unsettling for dysfunctional friends, Ken (Peter Wright) and Mary (Lesley Manville), jealously drawn to the Tom and Gerri conjugal comfort zone, yet burned when the peaceful family flame throws their sad fates into focus.
The Oscar-nominated screenplay is in four acts separated by the seasons. It provides a sublime stage for the brilliant actors to show how life distributes happiness unfairly. The last act introduces a new set of characters and a funeral. The wife of Tom’s brother Ronnie (David Bradley) has died, leaving the widower near catatonic with grief, although he may always have been that way. Ronnie’s estranged thug-like son Carl (Martin Savage) spins in and out of the funeral doings on his way to oblivion.
Invited to spend a few days with Tom and Gerri, Ronnie has a close encounter with once-hopeful Mary, whose fear of inevitable spinsterhood has sucked her into a deadly depression. A therapist, Gerri knows she needs serious treatment. In fact, the last shot of Mary’s forlorn face says it all.
“Another Year” is a departure from family film fare.
It sends a clear message: a solid marriage is like Noah’s Ark, sailing smoothly through a sea of drowning souls.