I feel Mike Leigh has done me wrong. That’s not really his fault of course. But there it is. And we had been getting along so well! Apparently, even my relationships with favorite directors is fickle. At this point in the post, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m going on about, so I’ll stop rambling now and break it down for you.
If you haven’t seen either film, I’m about to shamelessly spoil them for you. That’s your warning, should you decide to stop reading.
Happy-Go-Lucky is about a single woman who embraces being single, makes the best of it, chooses to be happy – perhaps even when being happy is decidedly not called for – and ends the film in a sunny spot. Quite literally, she’s out in the sunshine. I love this film. The acting is terrific and it makes you glad to be alive.
Another Year is ostensibly about a happily married middle-aged couple. But their single friend Mary plays a large role, as well, as does their son. The son starts out a bit dour, but then quickly perks up once he’s coupled and found love. Mary starts out okay, but experiences a steady decline into desperation and depression. The cause? She’s single.
I chose my words above carefully. I didn’t hate Another Year, but I certainly didn’t love it. Seriously, if you are single (*ahem*) and you watch Another Year, you will need ironclad optimism to get through it. Those without partners are alcoholics, compulsive eaters or emotionally detached, semi-comatose widowers. Those with partners are awash in the happy glow of quiet contentment, connubial bliss and parenthood. While this film is also very well-acted, it couldn’t be more depressing. I spent a great deal of it waiting for Mary’s redemption, which sadly never came. Even the colors in the film seem muted and dull, casting a gray pall over everything.
If you can only watch one, the choice is clear: Happy-Go-Lucky. If you must watch both, watch Another Year first so you can end on a high note.