REMARKABLY UNREMARKABLE CINEMA

Not many of us get into shoot-outs with the CIA on a regular basis, and yet it’s rare for a film to get much closer to everyday life than that. For decades now, there’s been no one to challenge Mike Leigh when it comes to bringing unremarkable, uneventful reality to the big screen without sacrificing depth or drama, and his umpteenth film as writer-director, “Another Year”, takes this ability to new heights.

The central characters are a happily married London couple, Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, who have two rewarding careers, a comfortable house, a grown-up son (Oliver Maltman) and a thriving allotment. To borrow one of Leigh’s titles, their life really is sweet. But the same can’t always be said for their friends and relatives. The film is split into four sections, one for every season, and each hinges on a meal Broadbent and Sheen are hosting for some of their less fortunate associates. The most frequent guest is Lesley Manville, a perpetually single colleague of Sheen’s whose desperate optimism curdles into bitterness as another year passes. Devoid of plot contrivances, the film is a deeply moving celebration of kindness and companionship, while being keenly aware of how harsh life can be when such companionship is in short supply. If you’re feeling lonely, you’d be advised to see a film about a CIA shoot-out instead.

"Another Year", out now in British cinemas. The film comes to America in late December

~ NICHOLAS BARBER