As linear and contained as it is freewheeling and expansive, British writer/director Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years tackles the progression of relationships, albeit from a fixed, microscopic point of view.
Counting down the last week before the 45th anniversary party of aged couple Kate (Rampling) and Geoff (Courtenay), the film essentially begins as the body of Geoff’s first girlfriend Katja is discovered in the icy embrace of the Swiss Alps. Memories are unearthed, old feelings of guilt, jealously, suspicion and insecurity released. But surely a decades-long marriage can withstand the strains created by the whispers of a distant ghost – or can it?
Haigh might have had some trouble repeating the keen eye and subtle touch memorably displayed in his breakout arthouse hit Weekend, as certain scenarios here strike one as forced, motivated by reasons more petty than profound. However, there’s no denying the leanness and cleanness of his approach, the scalpel-like sharpness of his attention, which combine to set the perfect stage for a pair of veteran performers to flex their acting muscles. And they do not disappoint. Rampling, in particular, dazzles with the quietly devastating portrait of a woman in doubt. Taking full advantage of the brilliant final scene, where the camera lands on her face amidst a merrily ignorant crowd, she gives the audience such naked access to her character’s inner turmoil it feels almost intrusive to watch. Time, you realise then, may help cover one’s tracks, but it always preserves the evidence for a later day.
45 Years | Directed by Andrew Haigh (UK 2015) with Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay. Starts September 10
Originally published in issue #141, September 2015.