45 Years (Andrew Haigh, 2015)
45 Years is a looooooooong time to be married, and if you’re hoping for a happy story about an older couple to help boost your optimism about the longevity of relationships, you’d best look elsewhere. David Constantine’s short story, In Another Country, has been adapted for the screen by Andrew Haigh, and while 45 Years is a smidge depressing, it’s a thought-provoking gem that ruminates on the complexities of marriage. Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are an English couple who are one week away from celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary when Geoff receives news. The preserved body of his ex-girlfriend, Katya, has been found almost fifty years after she fell into a crevasse during their hiking trip. He wonders if he should go to Switzerland to see the body. Memories of their relationship resurface and the mood shifts. Kate attempts to go about her life as usual, but revelations have her doubting the foundations of their relationship and everything that came thereafter.
The film takes place over one week, with every day uncovering subtle shifts in feeling. There are ups and downs and one senses this is characteristic of their entire relationship. What the future holds is uncertain. Despite being an older woman, younger viewers may be able to identify with Kate in the sense that her insecurities are similar to that of women at any age. If Katya hadn’t died, Geoff may have married her, and what does that say about his relationship with Kate? That he settled for her? The film does an impressive job in making both Geoff and Kate’s perspectives valid, though different viewers may judge one or the other more harshly.
Charlotte Rampling does a formidable job as Kate, never overdoing it but instead opting for subtlety. In more than one instance the camera lingers on her face as her expression gradually transforms from one emotion to another. Tom Courtenay adds another dimension to the befuddled old fellow type, and his speech at the party is a particular highlight. Though character-driven relationship dramas can sometimes run the risk of being dull, this is not the case here. Powerful performances along with a script that asks big questions about relationships make 45 Years one you will continue to ponder about long after viewing.