<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Andrew Haigh. Starring Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells, David Sibley
Running Time: 1 hour and 33 minutes
A film that has won several big awards at festivals around the world, 45 Years is just that, a festival film that focuses more on the story and real emotion rather than over the top drama and surprises. It’s one of those films that will move you or put you to sleep while you’re watching it.
45 Years is a film about an elderly couple living in a small British town and are close to celebrating their 45th anniversary. Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay) seem to be living a regular Brit retired life with their dog Max and a set routine. But a letter from Swiss authorities subtly shatters their quiet existence. Geoff’s girlfriend before Kate, over 45 years ago, who he lost in an accident in the mountains of Switzerland, turned up all this time frozen in a block of ice. At first, Kate is sympathetic about this old love affair she vaguely knows about. But soon, Geoff’s obsession with his past love takes a hold over him as he sifts through old memories and deliberates on going to Switzerland to see her body.
Is this a relationship that is has been loving for 45 years and suddenly finds a chink in the bond they’ve shared or have they always been a couple never quite so close? It would seem that there is a genuine affection and history that they share and there seems to be more to this old love story, which Kate sets out to uncover more about. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really reveal itself as a mystery that reaches some dramatic conclusion. A lot of it is conversation and it can’t be overly fast or dramatic considering the age of our characters and the fact that it’s British and not American!
Charlotte Rampling’s performance is poignant as she balances her love for Geoff with her growing suspicion that his past love meant a lot more to him than he ever let on. Was she his second choice?
So 45 Years isn’t a film that young people will probably appreciate. It is slow and subtle even though it’s very real and touching. Even after 45 years of marriage, jealousy and doubt can creep into the lives of perfectly happy and settled people. The past can be a Pandora’s box and one wonders if it should not just be left buried in the snow. Just a warning though, don’t watch a late night show of this film, you’ll end up falling asleep. It’s just the nature of the way its shot and the subtle drama that plays out and has nothing to do with the acting or the story.