45 Years, rated R
This film is directed by Andrew Haigh, who also wrote the screenplay adapted from the short story “In Another Country” by David Constantine. It stars the still beautiful 70 year-old Charlotte Rampling (who we were introduced to recently in the excellent television series Broadchurch, and has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role) as Kate Mercer. Tom Courtenay stars as Katie’s husband Geoff.
Kate and Geoff are retired. They live in the English countryside and have been married 45 years. They never had children, and never took many photos, something that Kate now regrets. There is no evidence that either are people of faith, something that is needed as their marital bliss is challenged.
As the film begins, they are happy. But their lives are suddenly rocked when Geoff receives an unexpected letter a week before their 45th wedding anniversary party (they had planned a party for their 40th anniversary, but Geoff’s heart attack and bypass surgery changed that).
The letter tells of the finding of Geoff’s girlfriend Katya’s frozen body, who died more than 50 years ago when she fell to her death as they were hiking in the Swiss Alps. Geoff and Katya had been pretending to be married, so Geoff is listed as her next of kin. He is asked if he can come and positively identify the body.
The film takes us through the week before the party and shows that Geoff cared deeply about “my Katya”. This comes as a shock to Kate, who remembers her as someone Geoff dated before they met, but didn’t have any idea what Katya meant to Geoff, who admits that they would have been married.
We see Geoff becoming increasingly distracted, and even reverting back to smoking, despite having heart surgery five years ago. As each day goes by the week before their anniversary party they become more and more distant from each other and uncomfortable in each other’s presence.
Both Rampling and Courtenay are excellent in their roles, but Rampling truly gives an Oscar worthy performance. Haigh effectively uses music in the film, including a lot of music dating back to the couple’s wedding (Turtles, Moody Blues, etc.).
The film is rated R for language and a brief scene of sexuality. It moves slowly, and is focused on how their once-happy relationship is challenged by the letter received.