Review: 45 Years

Posted in Reviews, Top Stories by - January 29, 2016
Review: 45 Years

To and fro, “45 Years” come and go

Every year, there are a number of films that fly under the radar and catch only the eyes of a few. There might, indeed, be whispers, among certain circles, which make their way to some people with authority or influence. This is very likely the case in Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years.” For those of you unfamiliar with this director, he is an openly gay, multi-talented director/screenwriter/producer, who gained special recognition back in 2011 for a film “Weekend,” which garnered plenty of notoriety that year, at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin.

While that story covered a stretch of just 48 hours between two lovers, THIS one, conversely, attributes its focus to a period of 45 years, just like the movie title implies. From the start, the surroundings of rural life in Great Britain are immediately captivating. The sound design is unique, but subtle, though it plays little part in the bulk of the story itself. We all know what it means to have a daily routine and Kate Mercer, played by the newly Oscar-nominated performance of Charlotte Ramping (“Dexter,” Season 8) and her long-time husband, Geoff Mercer, played by Tom Courtenay (“Quartet”), are no strangers to the ins and outs of a comfort zone. This is all about to change, though.

Snail mail carries a fateful nugget of information for Geoff. He has learned of the discovery of a corpse, which has been identified as a former lover of his, from years before he eloped with Kate. His details, regarding his past love, are sketchy, but it is only natural to assume that his elderly age plays a factor in that. Kate patiently listens to his memories and even finds room to relate to his experience with something personal of her own. However, as the days go on, she begins to wonder about the depth of Geoff’s sudden interest in a dead person of so many years past and allows herself to be affected by the voices of others close to her, in particular, friend Lena, played by Geraldine James (“Arthur”).

There is a small, but key discussion between the two, Kate and Lena, which sets the stage for the rest of the film. However, if you are not paying careful attention to their conversation, you might not get it. You see, normally, when a movie has a poignant turn of events, there is something done by the filmmakers to drive it home and make it more obvious to the prospective audience. “45 Years” does NOT jive with the typical film norms, in that sense, and maybe the movie deserves some credit for its more mature and unconventional delivery, but WHO, then, is the audience for this film? I found myself wondering if I simply was not old enough or mature enough to truly understand this story and appreciate it for what it aspires to be, as a movie.

Kate, eventually, confronts her husband about his secrecy and assumes to have uncovered an ulterior meaning to their marriage, even after all these years together.

For a few, brief moments, I thought the movie might turn into a suspense/horror piece, but it did not. In a way, I can respect that about “45 Years.” I admit that I was waiting for something shocking and/or controversial to transpire, but THAT something just did not exist.

As Kate and Geoff eagerly put on a façade for the masses of friends and relatives, joining them for a special anniversary dinner and dance, we see that Kate and Geoff have potentially reached an irreversible change in the meaning of their marriage, going forward. One of them has found closure and moved on, both superficially and in spirit, while the other is left feeling isolated and disappointed in what the outcome has become versus what the planned outcome was to be. Sometimes, when we think we have someone figured out and presume to control that individual, we learn the hard way that it is WE who have been manipulated and controlled all along and our efforts have done nothing to change that. When the revelation of that comes into fruition, it can be a bitter pill to swallow.

With all that being said, I was not overwhelmed by the performance of Charlotte Ramping and left the film confused as to what the Academy saw in her role that was so appealing to warrant an Oscar nomination. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it was actually Tom Courtenay who really impacted me more, between Kate and Geoff. As for the movie, it lacks real intrigue as a plot-driven story and under-delivers as a character-driven tale, as well. Perhaps subtlety is not always the best recipe for a great film adaptation. As an adaptation, it is probably worth noting that the story the film is based on is actually a short story, “In Another Country,” written by David Constantine. Perhaps THIS movie had to be stretched too thin, for that reason and in return, the power of the heart of the tale was sacrificed too greatly. The movie HAS received good acclaim outside of the States and congratulations are in order for Charlotte Ramping, regardless of my own personal position, on her Oscar nomination. She is a long shot to win, but as the cliché goes, it is an honor just to be nominated.

Official Trailer:

 

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