Director: Andrew Haigh
Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay
Running Time: 95 minutes
Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years is a much-needed romantic drama for cinema; casting aside the youth-centric and melodramatic flicks that seem to invade the big screen all too often. The film explores the week leading up a couple’s forty-fifth Wedding Anniversary. An ominous and unexpected letter arrives, and as the week unfolds it threatens to upset the balance of their well-crafted marriage.
Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay give two beautifully nuanced, detailed and accomplished performances as Kate and Geoff Mercer; a couple desperately and silently trying re-figure themselves and their marriage. As the film progresses, their relationship becomes increasingly transparent to the viewer, and we see the intricacies and the struggles that encompass the everyday domestic space. Haigh’s lens beautifully capture the fleeting moments, with lingering shots that work well to imprint the sense of isolation and longing through the screen. Both characters begin to lose themselves in this space of domesticity and at times there seems to be a division between them even when they are both present in one shot. It is almost as if it were shot on film, each shot is so soft but enduring, and you feel as if at any moment you could pause and the frame would tell a story of a thousand words. Mirages of their former selves still flicker now and then with sweet, light-hearted moments that are really telling of a passed time; such as dancing around the living room to forgotten song of their youth, and an intimate sex scene that audiences need and are equally refreshed to see. Yet there are equally moments of real pain, even at an unexpected time, that makes 45 Years so essentially and beautifully bittersweet.
The importance of time is accentuated in every aspect of the script. From the use of intertitles in the film’s structure, making the audience aware of the time that is passing and creating anticipation for the anniversary party, to dialogue about photographs that hark back to a previous time. The lack of photographs owned by Geoff and Kate gains increasing significance and seems to attain to the fact that time does not linger or does not cease in reality, as it may do in a photograph. The device of the letter bringing back the ghost of forgotten memories symbolises that time has moved on for the couple very successfully.
The script, performances and cinematography are all executed in such harmony, creating a very naturalistic setting and an experience, which is really quite refreshing, as we are able to observe the story unfolding without being distracted by superficial tricks. 45 Years is a stunning and intimate look at a mature relationship, and though it may not appeal to cinemagoers who only reveal themselves for latest standard blockbuster or whose attention can only be turned by a stream of constant action, to me it is perfect. Pure poetry in the domestic space.