British director Mike Leigh ("Secrets and Lies") has a way of making films that are quite about nothing, yet speak volumes about the human condition.
His latest film, "Another Year," has no plot, no action. It's just got ordinary people leading lives of quiet desperation or contentment. While I admire the actors' skill and the emotional intimacy Leigh shares with his characters, it's one of those films that is just – there.
It revolves around a handful of working-class people on the outskirts of London. Tom and Gerri (wonderfully played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) have a rock-solid marriage and gentle, comfortable disposition. They are calming influences for friends and family, most notably Mary (Lesley Manville) who is desperately insecure and lonely. Tom's boyhood friend Ken (Peter Wight), as the only man who is attracted to Mary, also buries his misery in cigarettes and alarming quantities of booze.
Manville shows extreme lack of vanity in less than flattering, extreme closeups that lay bare her anguish. Her performance is almost too painful to bear.