“45 Years” is a quietly emotional film about British couple living near Norfolk, England, about to celebrate their 45th anniversary. Shocking news comes in the mail a week before the party, forcing a revelation about a central piece of personal history not previously shared.
The film is based on the short story, “In Another Country” by David Constantine, and adapted for the screen by the Director, Andrew Haigh (Gladiator).
Charlotte Rampling (1966’s Georgy Girl), who inhabits the character of Kate Mercer, is nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for this film. Most every scene features her face, dealing with new information, puzzling over her husband’s reaction to the news, reviewing their 45 years together to assess what was true. The emotions are subtle at first, expressed at long last, then replaced with wonder and a return of anger. Most of this is not in the dialogue, but simply told with her face.
Tom Courtenay (Pasha in Doctor Zhivago) plays Geoff Mercer, fragile having recuperated from bypass surgery five years earlier, but comfortable in his life with his wife. That is, until the post is delivered at the opening of the film. In that mail is news of the discovery of the remains of the woman he loved 50 years earlier, who died in a tragic accident. “I’m sure I must have told you about this years ago…” But indeed, he had not. Despite Kate’s reaction, he blunders on, recalling the girlfriend, looking for his photos and journal from that trip in 1962.
Kate had been busy planning the anniversary celebration. She doesn’t tell her good friend Lena (Geraldine James) about the news. She doesn’t know what to say.
What does it mean to have thought oneself the one and only love of one’s spouse, then to learn 45 years later that core belief about your relationship is not true?
Kate and Geoff comment on the changes brought by aging—finding that we are not the excitable or exciting people we once were, so full of life and vigor. Realizing that our friends are plain and ordinary people, not the revolutionary thinkers they once were. Our friendships have somehow endured, but we never fully know one another, do we?
The film is rated R for language and brief nudity. The subtleties of the story may be too subtle for some audiences. There are long silences, which don’t go over well in American cinema. It is made for a mature audience, which would be capable of noticing the subtleties and grappling with Kate’s dilemma.
Indeed, most of the audience was over 60 the evening we saw it. But anyone who appreciates a good dramatic art film will enjoy this film.