Choosing Between the Smug Couple or Their Loser Friends in "Another Year"

Mike Leigh's Another Year concerns a year in the life of Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), the happiest post-middle-aged married couple in the whole of the London suburbs. Unfolding in four episodes pegged to the seasons, Another Year's arc covers the widening gulf between Tom and Gerri's entitled contentment and the increasingly bleak desperation of their family and friends. Dealt with by Leigh most troublingly is Mary (Lesley Manville), a coworker of Gerri's who regularly imposes upon the couple at home for Chardonnay-soaked meals that inevitably end with Mary blubbering incoherently about her failed relationships until she passes out. In a film full of highly exaggerated performances that intermittently tip into caricature, Manville's has been the most praised; it's also the most grotesque. If this is good acting, then quantity and quality must be synonyms.

 
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