Festival Review: 45 Years (2015)

45 Years

With brilliant performances from Rampling and Courtenay, Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years is an intense observation of a lifetime of marriage unravelled in one week.

Scenes From A Marriage

by Mark Wilshin

45 Years

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

The follow-up to Andrew Haigh’s breakthrough hit Weekend could equally have been called Six Days charting, as it does, six days in the life of a 45-year-marriage. Suddenly upsetting the bedrock of Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff’s (Tom Courtenay) happy marriage, comes a letter in the Monday post, announcing that they have discovered the body of Geoff’s previous girlfriend Katya after 50 years frozen in a Swiss glacier. It’s an event that begins to nibble away at their relationship, as Geoff excavates those memories and Kate discovers the importance Katya held for him (and that they most likely wouldn’t have got married if Katya hadn’t died half a decade ago). There are two stand-out moments in particular, as Kate accuses Geoff of not thinking she’s enough for him – as if the perfume of Katya has floated through their house all this time, a ghost in the corner behind her back. And then the party finale as the couple lead the first dance to The Platters’ Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – a desperate, teary-eyed Kate deciding with violent resistance that she can no longer stomach celebrating the success of their marriage. A delicate observation of life in the slow lane, 45 Years relies upon unspoken inferences – that Kate was never able to give Geoff the child that pregnant Katya could. And while Rampling gives a quietly devastating performance and Courtenay carries off his overwhelmed pensioner with charm, 45 Years aims for an emotional depth it only haltingly achieves. But with an acute and intelligent script, Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years reveals a most desperate state of the union.

45 Years is now showing at the 65th Berlin Film Festival

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