45 YEARS (UK/15A/95mins)
Directed by Andrew Haigh. Starring Tom Courtenay, Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine James
THE PLOT: Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay) are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary when Geoff receives a letter saying the body of a former girlfriend has been found; 50 years after she died. This sets Geoff reminiscing about the past, and Kate becomes insecure about her place in the marriage.
THE VERDICT: Based on a short story by David Constantine, 45 YEARS is an examination of a well-established marriage that suddenly hits the rocks. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are well matched in the film, although there are times when Rampling seems less comfortable in her character’s skin than Courtenay. The actress makes up for it in scenes with little dialogue, where she is powerful and engaging, and her portrayal of a woman suddenly realising that cracks are opening in her marriage is painful and moving. The rest of the cast is made up of Geraldine James, Dolly Wells and Richard Cunningham.
Constantine’s short story was adapted for the screen by director Andrew Haigh and, while there are scenes of extreme tenderness and a creeping sense of unease about the film, there are times when the expository dialogue is rather clunky and awkward. This, however, is almost balanced out with some beautifully simple dialogue, mainly from Geoff, who finds this new development in his life causing him to look back; ‘She looks like she did in 1962, and I look like this’.
As director, Andrew Haigh allows Geoff and Kate to dominate the screen, and show the dissolution of the marriage through her eyes; it is her paranoia and her anger that kick start the crumbles in the walls of their relationship, and even though Geoff tries to make up for his week’s worth of indulgence, and his actions causing his wife to feel insecure, it is clear that the seed has been planted, and it has taken root. The chemistry between Rampling and Courtenay is great, although Rampling seems to struggle from time to time, and Geraldine James does well with her role as an old friend on the outside looking in.
In all, 45 YEARS is a strong examination of the cracks that can appear in a marriage seemingly too strong to fail, the power of secrets untold, and the creeping doubts that can surface after years and years. Rampling does well enough, although she is not always entirely convincing, and Tom Courtenay shines in this engaging but slightly patchy drama.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

45 Years
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.5Slightly patchy
  • filmbuff2011

    Andrew Haigh’s new film 45 Years takes a look at an apparently rock-solid marriage and starts to pick away at it with an icepick. Tensions ensue. Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are a week away from celebrating the 45th Anniversary of their wedding. Happily married and now settled into the routines of daily life in the English countryside, everything is in order. That is, until a letter arrives one day. Geoff’s long-lost first love Katia has been found frozen and preserved in a glacier in the Swiss Alps. She was 27 when she died in an accident on the glacier, slipping into a fissure and disappearing before Geoff’s very eyes. They had planned to get married and build a future together. Geoff reminisces about the past and how much time has slipped away. Now an old man, he still remembers Katia like it was yesterday. This causes some slight uneasiness in Kate, but she brushes it off initially, saying that it can’t matter now after all this time. A ghost from the past can’t hurt her or her marriage. Oh yes it can. For Kate knows that Geoff is not telling her everything. She discovers some memories of Katia in the attic which change her opinions and make her wonder about whether Geoff really wanted to be with her… 45 Years is a quiet, slow-burning film that gradually resonates as the story develops. It’s a film about lost chances, the nature of love, the wisdom of old age and the reality of who we choose to love in this world. In that sense, it’s a universal story that should appeal to more than just the ‘Grey Pound’ brigade. It’s all the more remarkable coming from a director in his 40s like Haigh, who beautifully captures the passing of time and the way the past comes back to haunt us. It’s a story that leaves a lot unsaid, allowing the audience to fill in the uncomfortable, crevasse-like silences between Kate and Geoff. It helps to have two excellent actors in Rampling and Courtenay, who respond with their customary skill to David Constantine’s short story, adapted by Haigh. Watching Rampling’s face, particularly towards the end, speaks volumes about the nature of their relationship and where it might be heading. It’s a bit slow in spots, but 45 Years is a film that resonates long after the credits roll. It’s also a reminder about how fragile love can be, even when we feel it’s strong and can last. Nothing lasts forever. ****