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45 Years - DVD Review

45 Years

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ANDREW Haigh’s marital drama 45 Years may offer up the simple premise of a marriage in crisis but it makes for deceptively complex, hauntingly poignant and utterly gripping viewing.

Inspired by David Constantine’s short story In Another Country, the film picks up a week before Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary, only to find their happy existence rocked by the arrival of a letter informing the latter that the body of his previous girlfriend, Katya, has been found, perfectly preserved in the ice of the Alps where she fell 50 years ago.

The revelation clearly rocks Geoff and slowly has wider repercussions for Kate, prompting her to question the foundations of their relationship and the key decisions that have been made along the way.

Haigh’s film is a deliberately slow-burning affair that steadfastly refuses to spoon-feed the audience. Rather, he is content to let his performers do a lot of the work. Far more can be gleaned from a look or a sigh than can be obtained from the script, allowing audiences to draw a lot of their own conclusions.

The film is also non-judgemental. For while Geoff’s fixation with the past may seem curious to some, and even downright selfish to others, belated revelations do add a little more explanation. Similarly, Kate’s own reaction toys with our sympathy. Should she support her husband unreservedly? Or does she feel right to feel so hurt?

Certainly, the direction that the story eventually takes begs the question as to whether some secrets are best left undiscovered given the potential consequences (emotional or otherwise) of their discovery.

Needless to say, both Rampling and Courtenay are superb. The former, especially, perfectly juggles her inner pain with an outer dignity that helps to maintain a congenial public façade… yet we are left in no doubt as to the depths of her despair at certain key points in the story (not least during the final moments of the movie).

But Courtenay is great, too… his confusion and torment over the events of his past stirring a whirlwind of emotions within him that inadvertently throw his future into question.

There are some criticisms. Haigh sometimes devotes too much of his time to Rampling, at the expense of Courtenay (sometimes leaving him off-screen while Rampling engages in conversation with him), while that decision to leave certain questions unanswered could frustrate some, especially with regard to a key plot-point involving the couple’s shared history.

But for the most part, this is a hugely impressive slice of drama that makes for highly intriguing, if sometimes uncomfortable viewing. It’s also an acting master-class and a film that’s guaranteed to get you talking about it for sometime afterwards.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 95mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: January 11, 2016