April 3, 2016
Director: Andrew Haigh
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Dolly Wells, Tom Courtenay
Runtime: 95 minutes
Academy Award Nomination: Charlotte Rampling; Boston Society of Film Critics: Best Actress, Charlotte Rampling; 18 other awards, 40 nominations
“Both actors deliver a master class in expression by understatement.”—Peter Howell,
45 Years is a movie about a lengthy marriage. But there’s far more to it than that.
That long and apparently happy union is quietly dismantled here, thanks to absolutely compelling performances from Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay at the top of their understated game.
As Kate and Geoff, the long-married couple is getting ready to celebrate a 45th wedding anniversary. They are both retired and leading a sort of slow, quiet life in a pleasant village, dogs underfoot and friends nearby.
Then a letter arrives. Geoff learns that the body of his first love has been found. The woman, Katya, died walking with Geoff in the Alps; her body, after 50 years, has been recovered from the ice.
Kate has known about Katya, of course. It’s just that Geoff’s response to this news is a bit startling. He is rather more obsessed with Katya’s memory than Kate had realized. It slowly dawns on Kate that she’s been in line behind a ghost all this time, playing second fiddle to a memory that’s more alive than anything real or present.
How the past haunts the present and beyond is part of the main framework of 45 Years. There is the sobering realization that despite much intimacy, we’re all far more alone than we know, separated from one another by the usual secrets and lies.
45 Years is unhurried and essentially uneventful, but it is compelling.