Dir. Mike Leigh. UK. 2010.

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Life is cruel. Some of us who live it are dealt a good hand while others seemed destined for sadness.

Mike Leigh explores this theme by throwing us into a year in the life of an ageing couple Tom and Jerry. Following them through the spring, summer, autumn and winter, we join them in their encounters with old friends, work colleagues and close family who are either looking to the future with optimism and hope or see it as a gaping black hole of more heartbreak and unhappiness.

Mike Leigh's portrait of life in Another Year is both painful and bitter yet uplifting and hopeful, much like life itself. It's rare that a movie captures what it means to be alive with such raw honesty and it makes his latest drama essential viewing. Moreover, much like the real world, it doesn't come in a neatly wrapped package with a traditional structure. Characters appear and then disappear without finding what they're looking for and the movie ends on a note that leaves one of the main characters, Mary, in a position where things may or may not change for her. Leigh's movie, because of this, continues to haunt you long after you have left the cinema.

Both his writing and direction are as good as they've ever been here. The former is so naturalistic that you completely forget sometimes that you're watching a work of fiction sometimes whilst remaining dramatic, powerful and occasionally hilarious. The latter is also faultless with each of the four seasons of Another Year having its own appearance and tone which complements both the characters' and narrative's developments.

The aforementioned Mary is brought to life in a stunning performance by Lesley Manville who will surely be up for Best Actress at the Oscars. Also worthy of note are Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen who have a chemistry as good as any on-screen couple in cinematic history.

One of the finest films of the year so far, Another Year is a movie so rich that it demands multiple viewings and is as affecting, moving and honest an insight of life as you're likely to find. It stands right up there with the very best of his work.

Daniel Sarath

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