Tim Burton’s jury in Cannes didn’t bestow a single honour on Mike Leigh’s latest film, perhaps because the unadorned English realism of this middle-aged, middle-class character piece is scrupulously free of magic, fantasy or surreal whimsy. But while it doesn’t possess the gonzo energy of Lee’s wilder work (such as Naked), Another Year is a mature and modest masterpiece that shows the director at the peak of his powers. The story is about various lost souls who orbit around a happily married and compassionate couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen). Chief among them is a lonely single woman (Leslie Manville) with delusions of youth and a knack for venting her depression with manic bouts of chipper rationalization. To quote Pink Floyd, “quiet desperation is the English way,” but throw in a few rapid rounds of alcohol and that despair gets wonderfully talkative. With his note-perfect ensemble, Leigh strikes a lovely balance between dry humour and well-earned pathos.
Another Year premieres at TIFF Sept. 13 with an additional screening Sept. 14