Another honest, sensitively involving London-based slice-of-life over four seasons from Mike Leigh expresses much even when its talkative characters aren't saying anything at all. It almost plays out like a little morality play about the hazards of silence.
Another Year seems to have much conversation unrelated to what's happening around Jim Broadbent's geological engineer Tom and Ruth Sheen's medical counselor Gerri. The longtime happily middle-aged married couple often entertain family and friends (sometimes in their attractive garden allotment), plenty of whom have their troubles, and Leigh has a way of coaxing the kind of performances (many of whom have worked with him before) that connect with a bracing social realism (and often discomfort).
Leigh the scripter uses the vicissitudes of life going around the seemingly more stable and content Tom and Gerri as one believes in the naturalism Broadbent and Sheen give to people who know one another so thoroughly. Gerri's lonely, increasingly liquored-up friend Mary (Lesley Manville) could be right for Tom's friend Ken (Peter Wight), but has her sights on the couple's likable live-in son Joe (Oliver Maltman). Of course, it's not good when Joe brings a good-looking lass (Karina Fernandez) home. There's also some discord when it comes to Tom's brother (David Bradley) and his sourpuss of a son (Martin Savage).
Whether by an expression or a variety of interactions (even at a funeral), the fastidiousness to everyday life resonates as Leigh gets the most out of his usually enlightened crew with a very lived-in quality. Maybe for some viewers the proceedings may be too uneventful or too patronizing like some may feel about Tom and Gerri. But when it comes to an understated, extremely sensible and even affecting Another Year it feels rather nice to be in their presence with Manville and Fernandez exuding showy backup. Maybe life's key moments really happen in the kitchen where high hopes can begin and even end.