Janet (Imelda Staunton) is a depressed older woman suffering from insomnia and wants to get prescribed pills. When advised by a hospital’s psychiatrist Jerri (Ruth Sheen) to think about having more sessions with the latter, she say she does. She won’t even try to deceive Jerri and pretend that she’s found the solutions to her problems and she’s fine but instead she’s a closed clam.
Covering a year in its characters’ lives, Another Year, delves on Pavolvian traits and their effect on relationships and friendships. The wall Janet puts up against Jerri is an easiest way to end a relationship, but writer/director Mike Leigh‘s shows us the exact opposite of Janet with Mary (Lesley Manville). We first meet Mary as Jerri walks through her workplace, their work relationship seemingly harmless and normal, not too many attachments. She invites Jerri to a drink, and we finally get to see the real Mary. We’ll see, as she talks about saving up to buy a car, making everything about her. She opens up and brings up her life history after three glasses of white wine and start picking fights with Jerri’s husband Tom (Jim Boradbent) about his supposed hypocrisies in his environmental stance. How can the couple stay in a decade old friendship with someone they’re practically babysitting?
Mary brings up a fear within the audience that we might be Mary, the unfortunate outsider. She abuses her friendship with the couple without returning the favour by bringing a glass of wine and not finishing it, or asking ‘How are you’ back, or invite the couple up to her apartment even if it doesn’t compare to a house. Despite differences, Mary and Janet feel ashamed about themselves, which stop them from creating healthy relationships. Janet closes doors while Mary intrudes upon others so her friends doesn’t have to enter her space. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is her hostility towards the innocent Katie (Karina Fernandez), the couple’s future daughter-in-law. At the same time the couple then brings up a conundrum on how to become a good friend, as Leigh doesn’t show us alternatives other than being a non-burden and being a ‘nuisance’ as Jerri finally says about Mary.
I’m probably the only person who isn’t 100% sold on Manville’s performance, whose nervous ticks and hand gestures invade her own close-ups. Broadbent and Sheen’s roles aren’t showy, but their soft-sell condescension chills and might be missed by characters as daft or unintentionally insensitive as Mary. The last scene saves both Manville and Mary, experiencing the same problems, and the audience finally gets on her side. Her car problems do suck and yes, Katie is kind of annoying. Her problems are heavier, as her friends become unreachable.