45 Years is a solid slice of life look at a long-standing couple dealing with an interesting dilemma, and the fallout from that.
A British couple, Kate and Geoff, are on the verge of their 45th wedding anniversary, and a big party to go with it, when Geoff gets news of someone lost from his past. That someone is a woman who was Geoff’s ex-lover that fell to her death off the side of a mountain, her body never recovered, before Geoff and Kate first met. It seems the whole story was never fully shared between the couple, and as Geoff’s memories of his past love start stirring around in his head again, Kate tries to come to grips with the situation.
Andrew Haigh’s direction beautifully captures the English countryside and he isn’t afraid to let the camera linger on these faces as they try to navigate their inner-emotions. If you are looking for a blazing pace, you aren’t going to find it here, but Haigh does a great job of building up these characters and letting them take their time as they figure out how they are feeling. The film is never dull and it is often allowing you to contemplate new developments along with Kate as she scratch that itch to know why Geoff is acting so odd.
We get a fairly good idea of Geoff’s state of mind, but the film is firmly being told from Kate’s perspective. We can sympathize with Geoff a bit more because of this, like I did, but you could also let your mind run wild to the worst places possible if you have a similar mindset to Kate. She keeps assuming more, and more worse things, and Charlotte Rampling does a great job of selling that subtle evolution as she tries to keep it all together. I do think she goes a bit hard on him though, even if I understand where she is coming from; but that conversation is a bit spoilery. Rampling stoic face never lets you really know which way she is feeling along the way, and I was bit shocked about where her mind is actually at in the film’s final shot.
Tom Courtenay plays Geoff, and he is transfixing as he tries to come to terms with this news. He plays the whole role with a softness and sense of loss as he boroughs through his memories he probably hasn’t thought about in some time. An event like that feels like something you would have to bury to deal with, and Courtenay quietly, and brilliantly, shows us how Geoff unpacks all of those feelings. We also buy the way Geoff adapts to the world around him, all wrapped up in the past once it is brought up, but comes right back down to the present when Kate asks it of him. That is why Kate’s reaction at the end is so shocking, I totally bought into Geoff’s sincerity and Courtenay deserves most of the credit for that.
45 Years is a fine look at the way a relationship can be affected at any stage of it and is grounded by great performances from Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling. Andrew Haigh has delivered a couple of solid romances, at both ends of the relationship spectrum, but I think his more upbeat work in Looking is still my prefered mode for him. Still, 45 Years is well worth the watch if you’re a fan of relationship dramas.