45 Years (2015): Chronicle of Marriage, Starring Terrific Charlotte Rampling (in Oscar Nominated Role) and Tom Courtenay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

45_years_posterWorld premiering at the 2015 Berlin Film Fest, where it won the Silver Bear Award for Best Actress (Charlotte Rampling) and Best Actor (Tom Courtenay), Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years offers a moving and profound look at one long-enduring and seemingly solid marriage.

IFC will open this captivating film December 23 in New York and L.A., followed by nationwide expansion in January.

Haigh’s impressively detailed screenplay is adapted from David Constantine’s short story, “In Another Country.”

A retired English couple reflect on their lives after nearly a half-century together, in this multi-nuanced character study from writer-director Andrew Haigh, who had made a strong impression with his movie Weekend, which also dissected the evolution of an intimate, albeit gay relationship.

Geoff (Courtenay) and Kate Mercer (Rampling) pass their days quietly and routinely on their country property near a small Norfolk village.  They are both creatures of habitude.

45_years_4Married for 45 years, without children, Kate and Geoff Mercer are about to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a party, when Geoff receives a letter that shakes both of them. The letter, from Switzerland, lets him know that the body of Katya, his girlfriend before Kate, who died falling into a fissure in a glacier when the couple were on a walking holiday in 1962.  The corpse is now preserved in the Swiss Alps, where she fell on their hiking trip nearly fifty years earlier.

As he and Kate begin to digest the news, hidden tensions and all kinds of secrets and lies (big and small) begin to emerge in both anticipated and unanticipated way.

Geoff tells Kate that he was regarded as Katya’s next-of-kin, as they had been pretending to be married. Though Kate continues to prepare for the party, and the couple shares romantic excitement about it, she becomes increasingly disturbed by Geoff’s preoccupation with Katya. Geoff begins smoking again; reminisces at length about his carefree time with his previous love; seeks out photographs of her in the attic; and complains bitterly about the way his contemporaries and ex-colleagues have aged.

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Under persistent questioning from Kate, now convinced that her husband with obsessed with Katya, he states that he would have married Katya had she lived. While Geoff is at a work lunch, Kate searches the attic and finds slides of Katya, which reveal that she was pregnant at the time of her death. As the celebrations grow closer, they delve further into their past, leaving their future in question.

Unlike other cinematic dissections of long-enduring marriages in crisis, 45 favors the small, melancholic moments over major dramatic incidents.  As writer and director, Haigh should also be commended for paying attention to physical gestures, subtleties of body language, and facial expressions, rather than the more explicit verbal communication and open arguments, which is the norm in such movies.

Ultimately, 45 Years presents a new take on relationships, old age, intimacy, jealousy, trust, and forgiveness.

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Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are both accomplished thespians, who have done great screen work for half a century. In this picture, the rich and subtle material allows them to deliver performances that can easily be counted among the very best in their respective careers.  With some luck, and effective campaigning, their astounding work should be remembered at Oscar time.