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A Reel Life film section

Issue: Summer 2015-6

45 Years (2015) movie review

Cold Passions


Annie McLoughlin writes:

English Director Andrew Haigh has brought together a great cast in this breathtaking investigation into the balance and unbalancing nuances involved in long term relationships.

There is a kind of gripping suspense which has earned both Rampling and Courtenay Silver Bears for best actress and actor in the Berlin Film Festival and a nomination for Rampling in the 88th Academy Awards for Best Actress.

Read Annie's review ...

movie poster, 45 Years, Festivale film review; 400x567

Movie poster, 45 Years

45 Years has been hailed as (yet another) return of 'great British cinema'. It is not - the movie is tedious and darkly shot, and in its attempt to be understated and subtle, left me bored and waiting for something to 'happen'. It simply doesn't.

The movie follows an elderly British couple, Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay), during the week preceding their 45th wedding anniversary party.

A major social event for the Mercers, the anniversary party had been postponed for five years, due to Geoff's emergency heart by-pass surgery on the eve of their 40th anniversary.

In showing Kate the historic reception room for the big day, the reception centre's Maitre de sums up the movie's purported theme: "This room is so full of history; like a good marriage".

Some history, of course, is best left unexplored. During the course of the week, Geoff receives news from Switzerland that the body of his lover/fiancé of half a century earlier has been found frozen and perfectly preserved in a crevasse high in the Swiss Alps. The problem with all this is that Geoff had overlooked telling his wife of this passionate relationship and the trekking accident that had lead to the girl's death.

The movie thus sets out to explore how we reconcile the truths of our life history as we grow older, and equally, how secrets are 'managed' over the course of long relationships. These are indeed honourable and important topics to address. The movie falls short of these goals due to Kate and Geoff's ever-so-British/ever-so-frustrating obsession with avoiding conflict to the point of not addressing the issues at hand.

movie still, 45 Years, Festivale film review; 499x331

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay in 45 Years

Much of the movie comprises scenes of the couple pottering around their very dark and neat-as-a-pin country property, walking dogs, taking tea and reading. They are painfully polite and respectful to one another and largely talk of inconsequential issues, despite the shattering revelations that are emerging from across the chasm of 50 years. While powerful emotions-passion, jealousy, doubt, regret, sadness-are clearly welling up in both husband and wife, these are repressed to the point of explosion. It is an explosion that never happens; Kate and Geoff adopt the British stiff upper lip and soldier on.

There are moments of great cinema in 45 Years (notably the scene where Kate steals into Geoff's loft and explores his slide collection of the 1962 trekking tragedy), but these are few. While 45 Years enjoys a great cast, it is straitjacketed into character profiles that leave precious little space to work.

45 Years seems to be more about the tragedy of slavishly observing social protocol and politeness at the expense of confronting and resolving life issues. Kate sums this up, when arguing with Geoff about his reticence in attending a work reunion: "You can't back out," she insists, "even if you feel like it!" 45 Years frustratingly reflects this flawed doctrine of prioritising protocol over passion; over 95 minutes it deftly avoids addressing the important issues of reconciling history, secrets, truth and lies over the course of a long relationship.

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by Alan Alderson
Australian release 18 Feb 2016
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Just the facts:

Title: 45 Years (2015)
Written by: Andrew Haigh (scr), David Constantine (short story)
Directed by: Andrew Haigh
Running time: 95 mins

The Players: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay,, Geralding James, Dolly Wells

Official website:
IMDb entry

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