After an ever-so-slight reprieve with Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh returns to full-fledged miserablism with Another Year. Schematically split into seasonal segments – and beginning with Spring so that funereal Winter might naturally conclude the grim proceedings – Leigh’s latest concerns a cheery couple, geological engineer Tom (Jim Broadbent) and counselor Gerri (Ruth Sheen), and their recurring get-togethers with a series of despondent friends. Those include Tom’s longtime pal Ken (Peter Wight), an overweight gluttonous drunk, and Gerri’s co-worker Mary (Lesley Manville), a staggering mess of a boozehound whose barely concealed depression over being unmarried and adrift bursts forth after too much wine. Leigh’s attention to character detail and interpersonal dynamics is as astute as ever, and his social critique is harshly even-handed, censuring both the judgmental middle-class Tom and Gerri as well as their pathetic working-class mates. Moreover, while his score can be a bit precious (what with its sad flute and guitar-plucking), his story, within individual scenes of confession and confrontation – peaking with a moment in which Mary, who not-so-secretly pines for Gerri’s son Joe (Oliver Maltman), is devastated when introduced to Joe’s bubbly new girlfriend – build awkward tension and unbearable anxiety until they’re about ready to explode. In the sight of Tom and Gerri tending to their farming allotment, Leigh conveys the amount of care and attention necessary to maintain a marriage, friendships and family, though Another Year’s primary concern is capturing a bone-deep sense of Mary, Ken, and Tom’s widowed brother Ronnie’s (David Bradley) desolation, all of them lonely and lost souls whose unhappiness is magnified by the juxtaposing presence of Tom and Gerri’s stable union. At times so intensely dramatized and rigorously visualized as to border on the oppressive, Leigh’s film doesn’t break new ground so much as till familiar soil to potent effect, with Manville’s magnetic supporting turn as Mary – all twitchy mannerisms masking soul-crushing need, yearning and desperation – epitomizing the material’s fretful, frantic despair.