“The direction and screenplay is understated, but younger viewers might find themselves stifling a yawn or two at times. The slow pace however, can make 45 Years somewhat brisk run-time seem much longer. On the other hand, the film is perfect for the elderly to see, be intrigued by and savor,” The Times of India said in its review of the British film released last year.
I am young and I didn’t stifle a yawn while watching this magnificent film shot in the British countryside. But then someone would tap my shoulder and say – who asked you to read a review in The Times of India, the part-tabloid, part-news-paper. Never mind it is one of the world’s largest selling.
But this isn’t about Times of India-bashing, after all there are many others gainfully employed doing that. This is about “45 Years” – a film about marriage, isolation, and hurt.
There is a twist, however: the trigger for the fissure between the couple who’re about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary is a dead woman who existed much before they got together.
One day, when a letter arrives from Switzerland informing Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay) that the body of his long gone ex-girlfriend has been found in a glacier, Geoff’s wife Kate (Charlotte Rampling) grapples with a ghost from his past that drives a wedge in their relationship. This, a week ahead of their anniversary celebration.
The memory of Katya, who plunged to death during a hike with Geoff, haunts the Mercers. Geoff is somewhat shaken by the news and looks up the dictionary to understand the letter written in German. He climbs into the attic to revisit some memories. One day, Kate goes there too and finds Katya’s photos, one of them suggests that Katya was pregnant before she died.
Earlier Geoff tells Kate he and his then girl friend had planned to live together. When Kate comes to know her husband is secretly planning a trip to Switzerland, she gets upset and realises he’s drifted into the past and probably still has feelings for his dead lover.
While a moody Geoff deals with the memory of Katya by keeping to himself, his marriage to Kate suffers. In the end, he delivers a moving speech at their anniversary party, telling his wife how much he loves her. But his words, even when he brings himself to tears, do not mitigate Kate’s worries.
The most remarkable quality of “45 Years” is its implicitness, leaving many things unsaid. We don’t know what Geoff is going through, nor do we get a peep into Kate’s mind, except that she hates the way her marriage – after forty five years – has turned out, because of a letter. Although it is evident from his speech that Geoff is wants to save his marriage, Kate is on a different page.
The final sequence sums up their situation. It features a dance between Rampling and Courtenay to “Smoke Gets in You Eyes”. In the end, Kate is shown drifting into herself.
Their performance is subtle and understated, without ever slackening in intensity. The serene landscape of Norfolk serves as a befitting background to the underlying tension between the couple.
Rampling, who won the Silver Bear for Best Actress award, is brilliant as the dejected wife. Geoff, also winner of the best actor award, is good too; but Rampling steals the show.