45 Years is simple in its perfection, and perfect in its simplicity. Just two people, for an hour and half, trying to hold onto their relationship.
A moving drama and character study, British indie film 45 Years’ flawless acting and brilliantly understated direction makes for an intriguing, engaging, and technically superb feature. The focus on subtlety and reservation manages to highlight and frame the emotional intensity and impact of what comes together to be a deeply moving, memorable, even poignant film.
The film takes place over the course of a single week, following a couple, Kate and Geoff Mercer (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay), in the lead-up to their 45th anniversary celebration. At the beginning of the week (at the beginning of the film), a letter arrives informing Geoff that the body of his girlfriend from over 50 years ago has been found. Each of the Mercers become obsessed, in their own way, by this information, and by the light it shines on their lives and their marriage.
Rampling and Courtenay give contrasting, yet tour-de-force performances – their characters and their relationship are all the film really is, every scene relies on them, and in every scene they deliver with aplomb. Rampling’s claustrophobic, aching take on the unravelling of love and life is offset perfectly by Courtenay’s more bumbling, humorous performance of the same feelings and situations. Neither can be said to be the star of the film, rather they both are, together.
Director Andrew Haigh (Weekend) does a brilliant job of taking a simple enough story and giving it to his actors, never getting in the way of their performances throughout the film. That’s not to say that he does nothing – there are moments of flair and style, but even these are simpler, brief touches and nudges to keep the story moving, or to reassert the audiences’ attention at key moments.
All in all, 45 Years is a wonderful little film. While it may lack the spectacle of other films, the towering crescendos of action and staggering displays of emotion, it certainly doesn’t suffer for it. The simplicity of the film is refreshing, and rather than trying to cram as much stuff in as possible, the film is made up of a only a few parts, but each has been perfected, where many could not.
45 Years (2015), directed by Andrew Haigh, is released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray by Curzon Artificial Eye. Certificate 15.