A married couple preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary receives shattering news that promises to forever change the course of their lives.A married couple preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary receives shattering news that promises to forever change the course of their lives.A married couple preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary receives shattering news that promises to forever change the course of their lives.
Here we have a happily married couple getting ready to celebrate a milestone 45 year anniversary, only for an untimely piece of news regarding Geoff's (Tom Courtenay) past flame whom has passed away, which puts a spanner in the works. Being such a long time ago it would be feasible to think that this won't affect their current relationship, but suddenly all these memories come storming back and he suddenly gets caught in a sort of time warp. He brings her up at every opportunity, he can't stop talking about her. And this is where the film skillfully shifts it's focus onto Kate's (Charlotte Rampling) character. What she once thought was a perfect marriage filled with unbridled endearment immediately turns into a self-doubting thought process. Does he really love me? Am I his one and only?
Rampling is just extraordinary. Subtle in her expressions and exterior but inside the hurt is palpable. No showy antics, no histrionics - simply a masterclass in masking her grief. Haigh uses the bleak Norfolk countryside to great effect, placing her in the center of surroundings that perfectly illustrate what she's feeling -- forlornness and heartache. Courtenay is excellent as well, though not quite as affecting. But what he does brilliantly is convey the actions of an individual that can't quite come to terms with this news and it sets off a chain reaction of resorting to bad old habits and outlandish behavior.
The final scene however couldn't have been crafted any better if they tried. Whilst directed with so much grace and acted wonderfully by Courtenay with his anniversary speech, it was Rampling who elevated it to devastating effect . The words may have been music to the ears for many, but for her it was just so bittersweet because she didn't feel that same affection. She displays a multitude of emotions throughout; smiling, laughing, sorrow, melancholy. Her mind is constantly in a state of befuddlement. What should be one of the greatest nights of her life is far from it. And then the dance, which honestly made me tear up. Not only for Ramplings acting and heartbreaking final shot, but the lyrics to the song pretty much summed up everything that was destroying her;
"When that lovely flame dies Smoke gets in your eyes"
Their marriage may live on, but it will now always be shrouded with her belief that her husband doesn't hold the same love for her that he once had, and this woman from days gone by will always be present for the rest of their lives.
"45 Years" is a slow burning, intricately designed exploration of the underlying grief us humans undergo when in tough times. It's both beautiful and harrowing, aided by incredible performances.
- Jan 6, 2016