45 Years

Posted by Joel Copling on February 3, 2016

The conflict in "45 Years" is a deceptively simple one: As they approach the celebration of their 45th year of marriage, Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay) is a recipient of a letter informing him that his late girlfriend Katya's body has been found almost perfectly preserved on the icy peaks of the Swiss mountains to which they vacationed more than fifty years earlier. It wasn't until the late 1960s when Geoff met, fell in love with, and married Kate (Charlotte Rampling). He told her of his previous relationship. Yes, he would have married her, he says, if their relationship had not been cut short by her death. This is the spark that ignites a boundary between the two of them, and that's without reckoning another piece of the puzzle that he is hidden.

Director Andrew Haigh's screenplay thrusts us almost immediately into this central conflict, a sublime piece of observant and patientfilmmaking that looks at the protracted dissolution of a marriage crunched into approximately a week. We get few scenes with Geoff and Kate before that conflict raises its head, which is exactly the right decision on the part of Haigh, who here is adapting a short story by David Constantine. The note-perfect performances by Courtenay and Rampling, who are both devastatingly great here, allow us to examine their back-and-forth while the truth lingers between them. The effect is one of voyeurism, which heightens the stakes of a relationship that has been disrupted. By the final shot of "45 Years," the disruption has turned into corrosion. This is one of the best films of 2015.

Film Information

Charlotte Rampling (Kate Mercer), Tom Courtenay (Geoff Mercer), Geraldine James (Lena), Dolly Wells (Sally), David Sibley (George).

Directed and written by Andrew Haigh, based on the short story by David Constantine.

Rated R (language, brief sexuality).

95 minutes.

Released in select cities on December 23, 2015.