Director: Andrew Haigh
Screenwriters: Andrew Haigh and based on David Constantine’s short story In Another Country
Runtime: 95 mins
Australian release date: 18 February 2016
Previewed at: Sony Pictures Theatrette, Sydney, on 3 February 2016
Based on a short story by David Constantine (In Another Country) and adapted for the screen by director Andrew Haigh (Weekend), this two-handed (well, as good as) drama is an intense study of marital relationships and how quickly they can change.
Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay) live in a rambling cottage on the outskirts of Norwich in the English county of East Anglia; when we first meet them they are preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary, having had to cancel the celebrations of their 40th due to Geoff’s ill-health at the time.
In the days leading up to the festivities Geoff receives a letter telling him of the discovery of the body of a previous girlfriend, Katya, who’d suffered a tragic accident when they were hiking in the Swiss Alps in the early 1960s. This shocking news conjures up many memories and the effect these memories have on Geoff and so questions about this past relationship start to arise. Geoff and Kate have always had what appears to be, on the surface at least, a very happy union built on love, trust and mutual respect. There is a sense of safety in the cluttered order of their lives until, when Geoff goes into town one day, Kate discovers a collection of slides of Katya in the attic and sees something that changes her perception of the last 45 years. Their idyllic situation suddenly deteriorates and Kate starts to doubt the solidity of their marriage until she finds she can no longer trust the difference between the history of ‘then’ with the appearance of ‘now.’ Even her bestie, Lena (Geraldine James), is unable to convince her that what went on in the past bears no consequence in the present, particularly when it comes to previous relationships.
It’s the second time that Rampling and Courtenay have worked together, the other being in Bille August’s Night Train To Lisbon in 2013. They both received Silver Bear Best Actor awards for their performances in 45 Years at the Berlin Film festival and it will be interesting to see if Rampling can do the same at this year’s Academy Awards. Lol Crawley’s camera spends a lot of time contemplating her expressive, thoughtful face as she retraces the past and tries to find a solution to her confusion. In her own ‘real’ life, Rampling experienced betrayal during her marriage to composer Jean Michel Jarre and it has been suggested that this aided her performance. True or not, she is completely believable in the shoes of someone who is confronted with a dilemma that anyone in a long-term relationship would rather not face and finds it earth-shattering when they do - the rug is pulled out from under the foundation of her marriage and that changes everything.
45 Years is an adult film that doesn’t rely on car chases or CGI effects to make an impression. It is a performance piece that will leave you exhausted just the same, for it is a bitter pill to swallow and will stick in your throat long after you leave the cinema.