The first month of 2011 is wrapping up, and I must say that I’ve enjoyed having time to see movies again.

I doubt I’ll ever go back to the unhealthy pace of three or four movies a week that I suffered a few years back when I was reviewing films regularly. These days I can pick and choose, and write about those that inspire me instead of those that are assigned to me, and take the time to craft some thoughts about them that I won’t want to completely revise a week later.

It’s a good situation.

Tonight I had a fantastic time in a real movie theatre, with a real new release, real peanut M&Ms in my hands, and a real audience. And no, I’m not talking about No Strings Attached. What did I see?

Another Year. Yes, Mike Leigh delivered more of what he does best with this film, reminding me of his masterpiece, Secrets and Lies. Another Year stars Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, and Leslie Manville. A wonderful, wonderful movie full of convincing characters.

It really got to me. I could relate to Broadbent’s character. He’s a man with a big heart, and so he’s doomed to suffer when his friends make poor choices. If you’re like me, you have seen some friends make poor choices and, even though they have plenty of opportunities and support to improve themselves, they just keep making daily contributions to their own self-destruction. If you’re like me, you struggle to determine how hard to work at helping them, and you hurt when they refuse it.

This movie portrays that situation truthfully and painfully. But in the midst of disintegrating lives, the marriage of Tom and Gerri (yep, them’s their names) shines like a beacon of grace. While the people who come to them for help may refuse good counsel and continue to make the same mistakes, there is something beautiful about the relentless kindness and grace that Tom and Gerri offer them. And their love for one another makes this one of the finest big-screen portrayals of a healthy marriage I’ve ever seen.

It’s not even February, but I’ll be surprised if this film isn’t among my ten favorites at the end of 2011.