Who's In It: Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville, Oliver Maltman, Peter Wight, David Bradley, Martin Savage, Karina Fernandez
The Basics: Tom and Gerri (yes, really), husband and wife for over 40 years, have a great life: they're healthy, they have careers they like, they're still in love, they have a good relationship with their son, they grow their own vegetables and they have money to do the things they want. In other words, they ruin the happiness curve for everyone else. Even if the rest of their family and friends weren't mostly miserable--particularly Gerri's co-worker friend Mary, a needy, un-self-aware, mess of an alcoholic--they'd still come up short by comparison. And like the title says, the story takes place over yet another year of happy Tom and happy Gerri putting up with (often smugly so, really) all the unhappy people they pull into their warm contented web.
What's The Deal: What's great about this alternately cozy and depressing domestic drama from Mike Leigh is how matter-of-fact it is. The happy people exchange knowing glances about their friends' troubles--and, like all good couples, talk about them after they leave--but the movie doesn't treat them with contempt for their earned superiority. Likewise, the miserable friends, all of whom are drunk, poor, fat chainsmokers, unlucky with both life and love, are never given any sort of comeuppance or defining "hit bottom" moment to shake them out of the dumps. They all just keep on going, clinging to each other like people do. And the audience is free like the characters or dislike them, to feel like shaking every last one of them, to yell, "DUMP ALL THESE FRIENDS AND GO FIND SOME BETTER ONES WHO WON'T VOMIT ON YOUR RUG," to shift in your seat with embarrassment or to identify with the pathology. Or all of the above.
Most Cringe-Inducing Performance of the Year: That belongs to Lesley Manville, who plays the deeply unhappy Mary. It's the kind of performance that you simultaneously admire and worry about, thinking the actor is about to fall into the pit of caricature. It's also the kind of performance that will make you second guess every single awkward social moment you've ever been a part of and pray that you were never that needy, desperate, boozy or nakedly unpleasant. And when you've finished watching her sink all the way down, you hope you never have to look at it again.
It's The Kind of Movie Where The Biggest Name Is Jim Broadbent: Which means it's a typical Mike Leigh film. If you recognize any of the other actors it's because you're British and see them on TV or because you've watched all of Mike Leigh's other films. Like Woody Allen used to, Leigh has a group of actors he likes to use over and over and everyone here has been in at least one and usually several of his other projects.
The Line You're Most Grateful To Hear Coming Out of Someone's Mouth: "It's time you got some professional help."