45 Years

by Chris Kelly

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday June 17, 2016

45 Years

"Weekend," the 2011 film from writer/director Andrew Haigh, was an intimate look at the early days of a relationship between two young men. His follow-up, "45 Years," is a more disturbing look at a long-running, seemingly 'successful' relationship.

The relationship here is between Kate (Oscar-nominated Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay), who are tottering along the narrow ridge between late middle age and full-fledged elderly, and are preparing to celebrate the 45th anniversary of their marriage. But in the week leading up to their anniversary party, complacency is upset by unexpected news.

Fifty years earlier, before Geoff met Kate, he hiked the Swiss Alps with a young woman named Katya, who fell into a crevice and died - her body never recovered. Now, in an unexpected consequence of climate change, the glacier that held Katya's body has receded, and she's been discovered, perfectly preserved in a block of ice.

The news upends Geoff, and Kate is forced to make final arrangements for their celebration herself. But her husband's emotional reaction to the news surprises and disturbs her. After all, Geoff had barely mentioned her in the past. Who exactly was she? When Kate discovers a cache of Katya-related memorabilia in the attic, each piece is a horrifying indictment of her own, lesser, relationship with Geoff. Was Kate simply a lifelong placeholder, a satisfactory but dull replacement for Geoff's lost, treasured jewel?

"45 Years" is the kind of thoroughly grown-up film that is rare in US theaters these days. At times, following prolonged dialogue-free sequences, it was startling to hear English language dialogue; I realized that I was anticipating subtitles.

Charlotte Rampling received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her performance, in which she communicates the rippling, devastating blows of each new discovery almost entirely through expression and posture. Courtenay is also exceptional, breaking down with emotion in one pivotal scene while communicating the possibility of several different reasons why. Haigh's deft, subtle script brings real suspense to the final sequence, the 45th anniversary celebration, which culminates in a dance to the couple's wedding song, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" by the Platters. It's a lush and stately recording, a seemingly romantic song whose lyrics actually describe a painful situation; lyrics that Kate seems to be actually hearing for the first time.

"45 Years" is a ravaging study of the sudden, shifting perception of an entire lifetime.


"45 Years"

Director/Writer: Andrew Haigh

Paramount Home Media

$29.99 DVD


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