Last night I went to see Mike Leigh’s tour de force masterpiece Another Year at AMC with my friend Lucie, and I’ll admit: it was my second viewing. As many of my friends can attest, every now and then I’ll come across a movie that I will watch 3 or 4 times over the span of a couple short months. Not only do I love soaking in the story again for myself, but also to watch my friends’ reactions (the last time this happened to me it was the movie Temple Grandin). I think there might be something scientific about why I enjoy this so much: watching someone experience a 2-hour emotional journey when I know what’s around every corner is somewhat like an experiment for me; akin to a doctor watching a group of subjects move through a controlled series of tests to see how they navigate the emotional journey and reach their own unique conclusions and interpretations. Anyway, last night Lucie and I sat down for “Another Year” (her first time) and we were the only people in the theatre. I highly recommend watching movies in empty theatres — it seems to amplify the experience because there’s not even the slightest sneeze or M&M dropping on the floor to pull you out of your big screen/sound concentration. And what a ride it was.
Mike Leigh is in epic form on this one, and I cannot even begin to compress every single directorial home run he knocks out of the park here. The film will not just take your breath away with its deceptively simple portrait of a year-in-the-life of a loving 60ish couple living in London, but it will embed itself deep into your subconscious for weeks to come. The trailer below will give you an exceptional understanding of what you’re in store for, so it saves me having to go into the plot for you. All I can say is I have never witnessed a more pitch-perfect portrait of the human experience on screen for as long as I can remember. The story is so beautifully crafted that your mind will no longer be able to distinguish between whether or not you just watched a movie, or whether you actually did just meet these people in real life and spent an entire year living with them over their shoulders.
The characters are sculpted with such surgical precision and depth, and they fit together so perfectly, that it ends up opening doors of understanding to some of the most complex and all-encompassing questions of the human experience. Primarily, the film is an essay on our pursuit of happiness, the meaning of family and friendship, and the purpose of love. If anything, it provides you with an incredible example of one of the most honest, beautiful, and fascinating marriages you will ever encounter in film or reality. As a matter of fact, you might just have to watch it twice to appreciate its full beauty.