A masterful look at everyday life

Cert: 12A
BRITISH director Mike Leigh’s new film is a touching, near perfect portrayal of suburban life and its crushing trivialities. At the centre of things are comfortable, middle class couple Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen).

Around them are people whose lives haven’t panned out quite as planned. We meet Ken, an old friend whose unhealthy lifestyle is a cause for concern, and Tom’s bereaved brother and his estranged son. In a towering performance, Lesley Manville plays Mary, a work colleague of Gerri’s who comes increasingly to depend on the couple and the security they seem to offer. Beneath a flimsy exterior, Mary’s desperation and distress is plain, and her desperate flirting with the couple’s son makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Leigh is canny enough never to present Mary and the other characters simply as objects of pity. She irritates and invites sympathy in equal measures, as Leigh evokes a terribly moving sense of human fragility, need and self-pity. Warm, humane and often funny, Another Year is Leigh’s strongest shot at Oscar glory yet. Rhys Griffiths

Cert: 12A
New Mexico, 1983. An awkward boy of 12, terribly bullied at school, finds a companion in the strange girl of the same age living next door in a dowdy apartment block, who only comes out at night and doesn’t seem to feel the cold. Yep, she’s a vampire, and she’s been 12 for a very long time.

The 2008 Swedish film upon which this is based, Let The Right One In, was one of the finest films of the decade – a doleful, desperately tender tale of loneliness in an unforgiving world, which ignored every vampire cliché by a country mile. Given Hollywood’s habit of butchering foreign gems with shoddy remakes, the prospect of a US version was worrying – surprising, then, that this is an impressive, faithful version.

In fact, it’s so close to the original that it may be superfluous for those who saw the Swedish film. For everyone else, this is a boldly intelligent picture and a total departure for American horror. The children – Kodi Smit-McPhee, who starred earlier this year in The Road, and Kick-Ass’s Chloe Grace Moretz – are superb, as is Richard Jenkins as the little girl’s human minder, a sorrowful old man who must harvest blood for his charge. A moving, beautiful, cerebral American horror film ­– as such, a rare thing indeed. Timothy Barber