Watching Andrew Haigh’s sublime 45 Years felt like viewing a film from the late Ingmar Bergman. The film shares the same probing psychological examination and tense emotional drama with a majority of the Swedish director’s works, but Haigh’s picture departs through its sensitivity to its subject and characters, as well as its distinct visual style.
Centered on the week leading up to Kate and Geoffrey Mercer’s (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) 45th wedding anniversary, the narrative focuses on how their relationship is shaken after Geoff receives a letter detailing that the body of his former lover, Katya, who died in 1962 before he met and married Kate, has been found frozen in a glacier of ice in Switzerland. The discovery rekindles long buried emotions in Geoff while Kate is confronted with the fact that Katya’s specter now overshadows their increasingly fragile marriage.
During one late night conversation in bed, Geoff asks, “You really believe you haven’t been enough for me?” to which Kate replies, “No. I think I was enough for you, I’m just not sure you do.”
Along with the quiet restraint Charlotte Rampling brings to her role to contrast Tom Courtenay’s morose demeanor, Lol Crawley’s cinematography of the bleary, overcast English countryside and the interiors of the Mercer’s house—captured in 35mm—establish the film’s bleak atmosphere from the first frame. Combined with Haigh’s use of wide and medium shots, that provide a physical representation of the growing distance in Kate and Geoff’s relationship, Crawley’s camerawork captures every gesture and expression that cannot be conveyed through dialogue.
The film does have a few drawbacks. There is a natural softness in a select number of shots—but this is inherent to the original photography, rather than its DCP presentation, since detail and sharpness most times is compromised in wider shots. In addition, some viewers may be bothered by its deliberate slow pacing; however, by being patient and investing in the characters, viewers may find the film’s payoff to be rewarding.
In one of the film’s most inspired sequences, Kate and Geoff dance in their living room to Lloyd Price’s version of “Stagger Lee.” Physically exhausted afterward, Kate humorously states, “I’m not twenty anymore.” As an extension, cinema may no longer be twenty years of age, but recent films such as 45 Years attest that there is plenty of magic present to be experienced, just like that which can be found in the longevity of a good marriage.
Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells
Written by: Andrew Haigh
Directed by: Andrew Haigh
Running time: 95 minutes
Sean Woodard has been described by many of his friends and colleagues as having an "encyclopedic knowledge of film." When he's not watching Sergio Leone westerns or listening to Ennio Morricone's film scores, he can be found writing, playing piano (his nickname is "Elton Sean"), or singing in his church choir. Sean has earned Bachelor degrees in Writing and Music from Point Loma Nazarene University and is currently pursuing a Dual M.A. in English/M.F.A in Creative Writing degree from Chapman University. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.