A movie about the vicissitudes of friendship is quirkier in Mike Leigh’s hands. Annie (Lynda Steadman) revisits her former roomy Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge) in London. Leigh uses flashbacks to show the women were younger and more carefree, within self-conscious limits. Neither has ever fared well romantically. Reunited, their own bond deepens. Men amuse and hurt them but they realize that they’re the ones having the affair. Not a sexual one, but a partnership of wit, compassion, and empathy.
As always, Leigh plays with idiosyncratic character traits to build a story. Hannah, the prettier one, eventually confesses to Annie that her roommate is her one true friend. Steadman and Cartlidge, unknowns, are excellent. They’re working women too sensitive for their own good, the kind of the shared vulnerability Leigh is so good at portraying.