Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Movie with Abe: 45 Years

45 Years
Directed by Andrew Haigh
Released December 23, 2015

The title “45 Years” offers up a few possibilities for what its subject and content will be. Following the relationship of two people over the course of that time seems like a pretty good bet, and casting those two as a couple is also logical. Where it meets those people is an unresolved question, and where it starts and ends is also not set in stone. In this case, “45 Years” finds Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) preparing for their forty-fifth anniversary party, an occasion that should be entirely festive but is dampened by the arrival of unexpected news that throws their entire relationship into question.

Kate and Geoff are a mild-mannered, older couple without children who have been married for decades. Their fortieth anniversary party was cancelled five years earlier due to an unanticipated surgery for Geoff, and as a result this occasion calls for celebration in the form of an elegant gathering with all of their friends. The tranquil calm and monotony of their lives is interrupted by a letter Geoff receives informing him that the body of the girlfriend he had fifty years earlier, Katya, who was killed in a hiking accident before he met Kate, has been located. This news dominates Geoff’s every thought, and the poor timing of the discovery makes Kate feel less and less connected to the man with whom she has made her life, and forces her to compete with memories of someone she never even met who has been dead for half a century.

“45 Years” is a quiet film that involves little dialogue, and even fewer instances of shouting or true emotion bubbling over. Kate and Geoff are perfectly content with each other, and the party they are planning is as much for their friends to come together and spend time with them as it is a marker of the time that they have been married. Their romance is not one filled with warmth or affection, and it feels like it may never have been, not indicating any lack of love on each of their parts, but rather that this is how they have come to know and to be with each other. The sudden insertion of a third party into their relationship so far into it is detrimental and unsettling.

Rampling and Courtenay are actors who have been performing for decades, acting on screen for longer than their alter egos have been married. It’s refreshing to see that they are both still very capable of creating complex, believable characters, and playing well off each other in a way that does not suggest a high level of interactive intimacy. It’s likely that Rampling will end up being rewarded for her work here with an Oscar nomination, and she certainly is the strongest part of this effective if unexciting story of two people and how time together can truly feel.


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