Anniversary Milestone -or- Tombstone (Film Review: “45 Years”)

45 yearsPOSTER

In the days leading up to their 45th wedding anniversary, an elderly couple receives disturbing news from the past. Will new revelations on an old tragedy threaten to erode their future together?

SnapShot Plot

The British powerhouse leads, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are well-matched and perfectly cast in the quietly devastating marital suspense story, 45 YearsThe deceptively simple plot centers on the harmonious union of Kate and Geoff Mercer, a childless and devoted couple who in the space of 6 days will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary with a big Saturday night bash, surrounded by friends and well-wishers.

We meet the Mercers on the Monday leading up to the party, as Kate returns home from her daily walk to discover Geoff pouring over a letter he’s just received from Switzerland. It contains the news that a woman from his past has been found at last – her body, that is – buried deep within an icy crevasse in the Swiss Alps. And although his early relationship with the woman, named Katia, has never been a secret to Kate, we can see the almost imperceptible shift across the plane of Rampling’s legendary face when Geoff first refers to the dead woman as Katia, and then calls her “My Katia”. It’s the first in a mounting series of small moments in the film, as Kate embarks on a reluctant yet stubborn journey of discovery, with realizations that force her to reconsider who she’s married to, what she has meant to her husband, and upon what their entire life together has been built on.



Parting Shot

45 Years was directed by Andrew Haigh and co-written by Haigh and David Constantine, based on the latter’s short story entitled, “In Another Country”. The movie was shot in chronological order, a rarity these days but a factor which no doubt allowed the actors to more fully experience and embody the mounting tension in the marriage, and certainly the sense of dread ticking away in Kate’s mind as the anniversary approached. Pieced together as a whole, the film is brimming with countless bits of meaning, from the ironic song choices for the anniversary party to an otherwise banal conversation about the lack of photographs on their walls (of pets, not themselves). I described Kate and Geoff earlier as a childless yet devoted couple, which resonates significantly in the film. Understandably, the stakes are much greater for those who either don’t or can’t have children, to become each other’s family. . . to be ‘enough’ for each other. And when that union becomes suspect, especially at a later age when the prospect of leaving to start life anew must seem insurmountable, those stakes are greater still.

Some viewers may find the pace of 45 Years unbearably plodding. Others will be leaning in to catch all the small bits that comprise a realistic portrait of two people who have shared everything, only to discover that there are still secrets from the past with the power to unravel and spoil what should be a loving final chapter in a long, happy marriage. And because the story is presented through the eyes of Kate, the journey begins to feel like we’re watching an autopsy before the victim is actually dead. Unless the celebration itself manages to convince her that – unlike the fate of poor Katia – Kate’s own marriage is not destined for an icy crevasse of its own making.

45 Years is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer:

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