A lot can happen in 45 years.
Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling) has been with her husband, Geoff (Tom Courtenay), for many years – 45 to be exact. So that’s why, after a slight mishap five years ago, they’re getting ready and prepping-up to celebrate the 45th anniversary of their wedding, with a big ball full of friends, booze, food, and dancing. And while it’s a very joyous time for the couple, something from Geoff’s past comes back to life and not only disrupts his life, but also Kate’s. All of a sudden, a lover from Geoff’s past has been found dead in the Alps, which leaves Geoff wondering just where or what his life would have been, had he decided to stick with her and not get married to Kate. As a result of this, Kate herself starts to question her own marriage and life with Geoff, realizing that she may not be the ultimate woman and also trying to come to terms with the fact that this is not only the man she’s spent a huge portion of her life with, but probably will for the rest of it.
There’s really not a lot going on in 45 Years, except for Charlotte Rampling and everything that she puts into it. It’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s paid attention to film over the past decades, to know and understand that Rampling is a great actress. It doesn’t matter what she shows up in, for no matter how long or short, Rampling comes, she conquers, and she reminds you why great actresses like her still exist.
That’s why it’s probably no surprise she got nominated for an Oscar (for the record, we hope she proves these prognosticators wrong.)
However, it’s not just her who makes the movie great, as writer/director Andrew Haigh does what he seemed to do with Weekend and the cancelled-too-soon Looking, and that’s give us simple, small tales about simple, small people, and yet, not make them simple. Rather than just giving us a story about a wife and husband trying to connect after being together for nearly 45 years, Haigh takes it up one notch and gives us a reason to see why these characters deserve our attention and thoughts. While it’s a bit silly that the recent news of a person’s death is what causes all of these issues so coincidentally, it still works because Haigh takes his time with these character, this situation, and most importantly, their lives.
After all, while watching 45 Years, we never forget the fact that we’re watching two characters, who have been living and loving one another for so very long, are still doing the same thing. Obviously though, they’re older, more tired, and perhaps, more bored with one another. However, rather than making all of this seem like a slog to wade through, Haigh makes sure the smallest bit of detail catches our attention and have us think, even when it seems like nothing’s happening at all. These two could just be sitting there, having tea, talking about past times, certain people they do, or don’t like, and/or just doing nothing at all but staring into space, and still, there’s something interesting about watching it all happen.
In a way, it’s as if we’re watching a documentary of two people who have been together for so very long, just live life.
This seems to be the exact feeling Haigh is aiming for and it works make this situation, as well as these characters, more relatable and universal. It’s interesting that Haigh, someone who was pegged as “the next big voice for Queer cinema”, decided that he didn’t want to be pigeon-holed and give his own take on a relationship that, quite frankly, anyone could have. It’s also worth noting that it’s great to see a movie about two near-70 characters, who love one another and aren’t really doing much other than just discussing their past and soon-to-be future. While most studios feel as if these aren’t the kinds of stories that get butts into the seats, they’re still probably the most honest and, above all else, sad, because well, this is how we’re all going to end up one day, if we’re lucky.
Whether or not it makes money, shouldn’t really matter, but such is the case as to why we don’t really get many movies like 45 Years.
And yet, at the same time, the movie still comes back to Charlotte Rampling and what she’s able to do with this performance as Kate Mercer.
From the very beginning, we don’t know much about Kate, other than that she loves her husband, her house, and her dog, and that’s about it. But as time goes on and the movie develops, we start to realize that she’s in desperate need in something out of her life; even though she’s older and has seen all that she’s needed to see, she still feels underdeveloped in some way, shape, or fashion. That’s why, when this tragedy from her husband’s past comes back into the fray, she doesn’t really know what to do or make sense of, so therefore, she tries her hardest to depend on herself for just about anything she needs.
And Rampling, even with the smallest look in her eye, tilt of her head, or walk in a general direction, she makes you think. You never know full well what’s going on in this character’s head and it’s hard to imagine what a lesser-actress would have done with such a non-showy role such as this, but that’s why we have actresses like Rampling to remind us why she deserves every role she gets. It should be noted that Tom Courtenay does a solid job as her husband, too, but really, he’s here to frustrate and anger Kate, as well as she he should. In a way, he sort of becomes unlikable and unsympathetic, but then you get to thinking, too: He’s also got to be thinking of how it feels to have spent the past 45 years with this one woman and one woman only.
In some ways, it feels like 45 Years should have been, or at least, could have been that movie. Though it’s great to see the movie focus in on Kate and her issues, it still would have been great to know and understand just what it was that Geoff was going through, especially considering his situation is all the more tragic. Perhaps we would have had a longer movie? Or maybe, even a better movie?
All I know is that, even though she won’t win, Charlotte Rampling definitely makes the case for the Best Actress Oscar.
Consensus: With thoughtful, heartfelt writing, and a superb performance from Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years is a slow, but interesting look at marriage, as complicated as it may be.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire