Film: “45 Years”; Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells, David Sibley, Sam Alexander and Richard Cunningham; Director: Andrew Haigh; Rating: ***1/2
Narrated in an Ingmar Bergmanesque style – modestly paced, carefully composed and emotionally curbed, “45 Years” is a story about choices and the fragile certainties of love and marriage.
Based on David Constantine’s short story “In Another County”, first published in 2005 in his anthology titled “Under The Dam”, the tale follows an elderly couple – Kate and Geoff Mercer (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) who are about to celebrate their forty-fifth wedding anniversary. They are a perfect couple, yet flawed and sympathetic.
While they are deeply in love and immersed in their daily routine, a week before the party, Geoff receives a shocking letter explaining that the body of his ex-fiance Katia has been recovered in a Swiss glacier. She had accidently fallen into a gorge and apparently died while holidaying with Geoff, years before his marriage to Kate.
Since Geoff was marked as her next of kin on her death certificate, he is asked by the Swiss authorities to come and identify the corpse. This piece of news shakes the foundation of their marriage.
The narration starts off nonchalantly at a rather slow pace. The letter arrives very early in the narrative and in a sporadic manner, we’re suddenly immersed into everything Kate feels, which ranges from alienation, betrayal, competition with an unknown rival, doubt, anger, hurt and more.
Her emotions that boil over in the course of the week are painstakingly heart-breaking to watch as they’re so instinctive. Charlotte Rampling as the distraught Kate, is incredible. She transmits a myriad of emotions with flawless ease.
Tom Courtenay as Geoff is equally remarkable. He displays a strange skillset of arrogance when he is explaining his past and he is equally passionate and at ease as a caring and loving husband. Together, their onscreen chemistry captures the convincing texture of long-term marriage with all its non-verbal communication, unfinished sentences and half-buried tensions.
The rest of the cast- Geraldine James as Leena and Dolly Wells as Charlotte, Kate’s friends – have their moments to shine on screen.
On the directorial front, while the director is careful about how he has handled this mature love story, the film borderlines on a strangely voyeuristic note due to the intimacy of the mature couple’s relationship. The scene though natural and from a mature relationship perspective, is unique and seldom portrayed. But, it is sure to make many in the audience uncomfortable.
With its strong premise, the film delivers as promised. It is sentimental, yet feels a bit unfinished and hollow as it does not satisfy your yearning about the characters. The old number, “Smoke gets in your eyes”, is beautifully incorporated into the narration.
“45 Years” is a nice watch.