Both Mike Leigh and Woody Allen make movies about people encased in their unhappiness; the difference is that Leigh honors his characters' right to be miserable if they so desire, whereas Allen seems to respect no one’s melancholy but his own. Another Year continues in the vein of Leigh's last feature, Happy-Go-Lucky, considering characters who've made peace with their lives and others who are still at war (and losing). Divided into four seasonal chapters, it centers on a sweet and contented old couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) who open their home in suburban London to various friends and family, among them a lonely and romantically frustrated secretary (Lesley Manville), an older fellow slowly killing himself with food and alcohol (Peter Wight), and the husband's remote, recently widowed brother (David Bradley). A brief but piercing cameo by Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), as a desolate old woman who fiercely rejects professional counseling for depression, drives home Leigh's greatest insight, that true happiness is not found but realized.
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