Another Year is well built; there's no wasted effort or grandstanding. It's a great film, infused with wonderful acting, conceived from the "mise en place" brain of Mike Leigh, building tension out of thin air. It's a rare thing to see a filmmaker create a vibrant world from characters alone; it makes you appreciate that there are still a few people out there for whom film is still a worthy artistic expression.
At the center of Another Year is the relationship between Gerri and Tom. They've clearly been married forever, even before they were married, and they share knowing smirks and wry glances that we're lucky enough to be privy to. The film's other principals revolve around and re-enter their universe every few minutes: their son, Joe; Gerri's friend Mary; Tom's friend Ken.
The year's four seasons form the chapters of the film, from the renewed energy and and optimism of summer to the cold and isolating deaths that start with winter's ice crystals. There's not an overt story arc to speak of, though not to the film's detriment. The focus of the film is the marriage, how others interact with Gerri and Tom, how friends and family handle stressors and react to opportunities against the backdrop of their successful pairing. Another Year features loneliness and sadness, but companionship is at the root of the tale, the bedrock foundation of Gerri and Tom weathering all storms.
What's impressive about Another Year is how organically the plot structure is woven in. As I mentioned before, it's a simple narrative but a profound one. Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and Tom (Jim Broadbent) want their son to find love, they want Mary to find happiness, they want Ken to be content in his skin. But they aren't the judging or preaching type. A protective bubble has formed around them, and they clearly wish others had the same thing, but no judgment, and would you like a cup of tea?
Another Year is comprised of a series of lovely one-shots, scenes that play out in an earthy and interesting manner. It's a film about the human need for connections, and the missteps we all make along the way. It's a filmmaker's film, the sort of thing you hope they show and discuss in film schools. "You see, class, patience behind the lens plays out beautifully if you're thorough and highly invested in the characters involved."