Mike Leigh
, often a chronicler of hapless middle-class Londoners, went light with his last film, 2008's 'Happy-Go-Lucky,' which focused on a relentlessly chipper Pollyanna type. His new one, 'Another Year,' heads back in the direction of somberness, but it carries a lot of mirth with it. In fact, for most of its running time it feels like a straightforward sophisticated comedy, one that might even have a happy ending...

What we have here is a solar system of messed-up people who orbit an older couple named Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen). Tom and Gerri are stable, rock-solid types, with professions to match: he's a geologist, she's a counselor. They've been married for more than 30 years and still adore one another. They are everyone's ideal, all the more lovable for being slightly daft, like a favorite aunt and uncle. It's no wonder they're admired by the people who know them.

These include Mary (Lesley Manville), a secretary at the hospital where Gerri works who's been in one unsuccessful, ill-advised relationship after another. Mary is bubbly and sarcastic, a pleasant chatterbox and an enthusiastic drinker. She's a bit lonely but seems optimistic. Until she drinks too much, that is, whereupon her bipolar pendulum swings the other direction and she becomes hilariously morose.