ReelBob: ’45 Years’
By Bob Bloom
Viewing “45 Years” is like watching a car accident unfolding in slow motion.
You see it coming, but you can’t do anything to prevent it.
The relationship between Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate (Charlotte Rampling) in this domestic drama is like that.
You watch helplessly as the relationship of a longtime married couple, seemingly happy and comfortable with each other, slowly unravel as secrets are unearthed and buried hurts bubble to the surface.
Geoff and Kate are approaching their 45th wedding anniversary. Their daily routine is likely similar to other established partners — meals, trips to the market, small talk — nothing out of the ordinary.
But that all changes when Geoff receives a letter notifying him that the frozen and preserved body of a former girlfriend, killed while they were hiking in the Swiss Alps decades ago, has been discovered in a glacier.
This news stirs memories in Geoff and uneasiness in Kate.
Doubts and insecurities begin to fester in Kate, as she begins to question the validity of her marriage and her husband’s love.
The pair struggle to maintain normalcy, but the shadow of the past continues to swell like a storm cloud and push down on the two like an ever-expanding balloon.
Geoff begins smoking again. He sneaks up to the attic to look at photos of his younger self with the woman on their hike.
To some, this may seem innocuous, but Kate feels threatened by a past in which she had no part nor knowledge.
Writer-director Andrew Haigh’s script delves into the fragility of marriage and how one instant can make a person doubt a lifetime choice.
Kate begins to wonder if her marriage was a mistake. Was she a rebound for Geoff’s heartbreak? Has she been deluding herself about her husband’s devotion? Was she someone he simply settled for?
All this gnaws at Kate as Rampling’s body language — her eyes, her posture, her expressions — expertly display her emotional turmoil.
Rampling’s Academy Award-nominated performance is tragic as she begins to continually re-examine everything Geoff says, and Courtenay’s strong performance perfectly complements Rampling’s. His Geoff, to no avail, continually reassures Kate of his love. He cannot grasp why she feels intimidated by a part of his life that did not involve her.
Haigh also uses pauses to heighten the growing tension. At times, the silence is so strong that it screams volumes.
I will not divulge the finale, except to say that, though it is ambiguous, it also is heartbreaking — raising more questions, and lacking answers.
“45 Years” is an experience that may make you uncomfortable — especially if you have been married for many years. Some couples may see themselves in Kate and Geoff, while others will offer a prayer of thanks and try to comfort themselves with the delusion that their partnership is not similar in any way.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
4 stars out of 4
(R), language, sexual content