Much acclaim has been circulating around Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay’s performances in 45 Years, and with an Oscar nomination for Rampling, the film now has an even greater chance of being embraced. Rampling is great as Kate Mercer, a woman approaching her 45th wedding anniversary with her husband Geoff (Courtenay), living in relatively simple domestic bliss at their home in the English countryside. Love for them is beyond the romance of newlyweds but just as potent, especially when a small secret is revealed that threatens what they have. After that, nothing is ever quite what it seems again.
If it sounds like I’m describing a thriller, it’s not a coincidence. It might be the emotional power of writer/director Andrew Haigh’s understated settings, like a tea shop or a non-descript clothing store, that remind me of the kind of suspense that’s normally reserved for intense drama. What’s at the heart of Haigh’s eerily observant screenplay is polite avoidance built around every word of dialogue, and then complete silence that carries the actual distance between these two people in their marriage.
The countryside and surrounding town is beautifully shot, but it’s the inner landscape of shock and pain depicted through Rampling’s eyes that really gets under your skin and stays with you. Courtenay is a perfect match for Rampling as an actress, as he portrays a man desperate to reconnect with his wife but who continually behaves in ways that unsettle her, so that the eventual celebration of their marriage is fraught with paradox.
45 Years also speaks to how much of the major moments in our lives have a personal soundtrack that takes on new meaning as we get older. For Kate and Geoff, their songs come from the Swinging Sixties – timeless classics from Dusty Springfield, Aaron Neville, and The Platters, to name a few, that brilliantly underscore the nostalgia of the best years of a relationship as it recedes further into the past.
45 Years is now playing at Cinema du Parc.