An excellent Charlotte Rampling plays one half of a couple who have been together for more than four decades as they face a marital crisis that might prove to be insurmountable in Haigh’s delicate take on the meaning of love as refracted by secrets from the distant past.
Dir. Andrew Haigh
2015 | UK | Drama | 95 min | 1.85:1 | English
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for language and brief sexuality
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James
Plot: A married couple preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary receives shattering news that promises to forever change the course of their lives.
Awards: Won Best Actor, Best Actress & Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlinale); Nom for Best Leading Actress (Oscars)
International Sales: The Match Factory
Subject Matter: Moderate – Marital Crisis; Silver Years; Love & Trust
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Best known for Weekend (2011), one of the key queer films of post-2000s British cinema, Andrew Haigh isn’t exactly a prolific filmmaker. With 45 Years, only his third feature, he ventures into another milieu: the lives of old people.
Charlotte Rampling earns her only acting Oscar nomination of her illustrious career with her role here as Kate, who’s one half of a couple who have been together for more than four decades.
Her partner, Geoff (Tom Courtenay), receives a letter one day about a long-buried incident from eons ago, and this becomes a point of consternation in their relationship.
“Well, I can hardly be cross with something that happened before we existed, can I?”
Rampling and Courtenay are excellent, never settling into the caricatures of a bitter, uncommunicative couple. Instead, Haigh’s delicate direction provides them with the platform to give nuanced, naturalistic performances that fit very well with the calm, unhurried nature of the film.
Some of the most beautiful scenes in 45 Years see Kate on a charter boat navigating the Norfolk Broads as she contemplates the unexpected development in light of what would be, in a few days’ time, the 45th anniversary of her marriage. She’s planning a big party to celebrate, but her husband’s mind seems to be elsewhere.
A tale of marital crisis in the silver years. Haigh’s film patiently stirs up the grand question: what is the meaning of love after so many years when it is refracted by secrets from the distant past?