Wednesday, December 02, 2015

“45 Years”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a sneak preview at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center for the new drama, “45 Years”, starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.


As a couple prepares to celebrate their wedding anniversary, will their marriage be able to survive after shocking news about his past surfaces?


In the expansive countryside of Norfolk, England, the childless couple Geoff and Kate (Courtenay and Rampling) are enjoying their retirement.  While Kate busily plans the big party that will be a celebration for their 45th wedding anniversary, Geoff gets a letter from Switzerland which contains some rather disturbing news:  the body of his ex-girlfriend, who was reported dead during their vacation there in 1962, has been discovered.  Thought to have perished as the result of an accidental drowning, her body was found fully preserved, encased within a glacier. 

Geoff is overwhelmed by this news, forcing him to dredge up old memories he had long ago buried.  Kate is also devastated because she’s only learning of this woman now; in the decades they’ve been married, he’s never once brought her up in conversation.  Suddenly, with their wedding anniversary on the horizon, they must deal with this incident from before they met each other.  As Geoff continues to reveal details about his relationship with this other woman, Kate soon believes he is now concerned more with reviving her memory than their present life together. 

Understandably, Kate loses enthusiasm for planning their anniversary party.  Geoff’s becoming increasingly distant emotionally and Kate learns he’s secretly planning a trip to Switzerland to identify the body.  Kate is left to wonder if she’s losing her husband or if she never really had him in the first place.  She suspects Geoff has been living in this woman’s memory all along and that she’s unknowingly been living with her ghost for the past several decades.  Now, with everything out in the open, will their marriage survive this new information?


“45 Years” is one of those movies that has an ambiguous ending.  You may either see that as good news or bad news.  Director Andrew Haigh (who also wrote the screenplay, based on the short story “In Another Country” by David Constantine) apparently felt that the end should be left open to interpretation by the audience.  Here’s the problem with that:  it’s lazy storytelling.  Whether you attend a play, read a book or see a movie, you are investing your time and money in the people telling you this story.  When they provide an ambiguous ending, they are abdicating their responsibility as the storyteller, willfully deciding to violate the social contract in which they chose to engage. 

Some may maintain it’s all about the journey, not about the destination.  Arguably, if the destination is unknown, then you can’t appreciate the journey;  it’s called being lost.  The movie doesn’t so much end as much as it comes to an abrupt (some might say arbitrary) halt.  If you’re looking for a resolution, you’ll be waiting a long time.  Having said all of that, however, Rampling and Courtney are solid professionals with a seeming chemistry that makes the idea of them being a long-time married couple totally believable.   

Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with Haigh and Rampling.  Haigh said that when he was in post-production for his previous movie, someone had given him this short story to read; once he was finished, he knew that an adaptation of that piece of fiction would be his next project.  Rampling experienced very much of a personal investment in this story; when she read Haigh’s script, she felt as though he had written the screenplay just for her.  Haigh admitted that his film is very much in the style of Ingmar Bergman (particularly, “Scenes From A Marriage”) and he had the privilege of screening it at a film festival held in Bergman’s hometown. 

45 Years (2015) on IMDb

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