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Categories: Movie Reviews

Lynn Klein reviews Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years”, starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as a couple about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary whose peaceful life is disrupted when an old tragedy is revisited.

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Andrew Haigh (Greek Pete, Weekend) has returned with his third feature, 45 Years, starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. Very slow and quiet, it is a perfect contemplation on a long-term relationship which shines through its protagonists’ performances. 

After the critically acclaimed Weekend, 45 Years is set in rural England, and centers around Kate and Geoff, a couple who are one week away from celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. Their quiet, idyllic life in the countryside is disrupted by a letter that informs Geoff that Swiss authorities have found the body of his fiancée, who had gone missing in the mountains fifty years earlier. This reminder of a life that Geoff used to lead, and could have had if it weren’t for the accident, takes a strain on Kate and their relationship this close to their big celebration. 

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The film, emphasizing a down-to-earth lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures, highlights the love and life of an elder couple, something rarely seen in cinema. Kate and Geoff are seemingly perfect for each other, both calm and intelligent, and with Kate luring Geoff out of his shell at times, they complement each other. Their anniversary celebration is a big event, very different from their daily life. The letter thus has a big impact, putting their whole life in perspective. Even after 45 years of marriage, there are still secrets between them. In the end, few words are needed to mend their relationship, and their party celebrates their marriage the way it deserves. Despite being a devastating incident, the news from Switzerland makes them stronger. 

The quiet setting and slow action underline the mechanics of their life together, and feel at no point artificial. Their cottage, surrounded by wide-ranging fields and meadows, features extensively, emphasizing the couple’s closeness to nature. The gorgeous countryside sets the tone, and beautifully transports the viewer into Kate and Geoff’s life. Haigh uses this pure setting to juxtapose it to the anniversary that is to be celebrated in town, which makes this event seem all the more remote to their everyday life.

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Both Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are brilliant in their respective roles, as was reflected by the jury at the Berlinale, where they were awarded the prizes for best actor and actress, respectively. Rampling’s performance especially feels genuine, with her mimic perfectly conveying her character’s emotions. Courtenay also plays out his character’s emotional conundrum with great power. You can almost physically feel their anguish.

A tranquil cinematic experience, 45 Years is a moment in time of a couple’s life perfectly captured by Andrew Haigh. His no-nonsense approach turns it into a great film that is beautiful to watch. 

45 Years will be out in theaters and on demand in the UK on August 28th. 

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Posted on Aug 3, 2015

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