I was a little disappointed by Mike Leigh's Another Year. I'm not sure I can do a better job of explaining why than to point to this review in The Independent, in which Anthony Quinn says that he found himself "admiring the acting while questioning the authenticity of what's actually happening." But I generally think that acting should go unnoticed, so that if you are admiring the acting it probably isn't that good. My guess is that there are exaggerations needed for good stage acting that don't work in film, but I don't know.
Anyway, it's the dubious authenticity that most strikes me. Rottentomatoes (summarizing many other reviews) talks about "the director's trademark feel for the nuances of everyday life," and calls the film an "emotionally honest portrait of ordinary people trying to make sense of their lives." But some of the people seemed about as authentic as Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's sofa to show the world that he was in love. The main characters (an aging couple called Tom and Gerri) are always happy except when they are angry at the government or disapproving of someone else for behaving badly. This is a world in which grown men (they seem to be about sixty) jump on each other for piggybacks and a 30-year-old man introduces his girlfriend to his parents by getting her to hide behind a door and shout "boo!" when they come in. Everybody laughs, of course. It's a world in which happily married couples constantly share loving smiles and say, in front of other people, things like "You're perfect in every way, darling, and you know you are." No one is embarrassed by any of this, no one rolls their eyes, and no one thinks it doesn't need to be said. Of course not everyone is like me, but I know several couples who seem very happily married, and none of them acts like this.
This is supposed to be a sad movie, one that confronts problems of bereavement, loneliness, and aging. So how can it be so chipper? By not really confronting anything, I think. The film begins with a woman reluctantly receiving counselling for the depression she would rather not acknowledge and ends with another being advised to seek the same kind of help (from an objective professional, not a friend who has the necessary professional skills, for some reason). The same woman is told that she must take responsibility for her decisions, and it is made clear that another character (who would surely die within minutes if he really ate, drank, and smoked as desperately as he does in the film) could be happily in a relationship if only he wasn't such a pig. If you're unhappy, the message seems to be, it's probably your fault. If it isn't, then seek professional help. That will do the trick.
What about death? Surely some things are just bad and there's nothing we can do to take away their sting? Well, yes and no. We see two men who have been widowed in the movie. One assures us that you get used to it and it isn't so bad. Another seems well on the way to that attitude, too, but first spends a few days with friends to help him make the transition from married life to widowed life. His manly stoicism helps too. And that seems to be it: a stiff upper lip, a lovely cup of tea, and, if all else fails, professional help can solve every problem life can throw at us. It's a positive attitude to take, but it also seems unrealistic and unsympathetic to me.