Another Year (2010)
As skilled as Mike Leigh often is at conveying ordinary people in everyday situations, he occasionally has a tendency of slightly caricaturing his characters while at the same time expecting his viewers to read more into his films than what is actually there. Or rather, the average critic seems to be inclined to do this - irrespective of Leigh's intentions. Another Year doubtlessly falls into this category. It has some interesting observations and valid points about modern urban life, but at the same time, the drama which is meant to carry these observations and points is too eventless to keep our interest up, and, ostensibly in order to embellish his points and make them stand out from an otherwise underwritten script, Leigh overwrites key character Mary - and/or allows Leslie Manville to overact it.
The result is a film which despite wanting to deal with the ordinary lives of average people, instead comes off as a self-indulgent version of reality. And not a reality most people will identify with, but rather a cynic's take on reality. And not only a cynic's take on reality, but a cynic's dull take on reality. There is warmth and dramatic potential in the relationship between Tom and Gerri, Another Year's emotional hub, but Leigh never actually explores it beyond his shallow (and prematurely disclosed) thematic stance. Instead, what he focuses on is a well of dysfunctional and borderline caricatured supporting characters who may be interesting individually, but who are picked up and left behind without us really getting to get under their skin (the Imelda Staunton character is especially annoying). The exception, of course, is Leslie Manville's Mary, who starts out as a very interesting character study and ends up in semi-ridicule. There's nothing wrong with message movies, even if the message is as slight as in Another Year, but we should be able to expect more dramatic material and more narrative depth than what Leigh comes up with here. In my opinion, this is one of the most undeserved script nominees at the Oscars in a long time.