EIFF 2015 – Review: 45 Years

“…so full of history like a good marriage” and 45 years is long enough to build up a lifetime of history and do you ever really know someone, even if you are married to them for 45 years?

The exploration of different recollections of a shared history and the resulting emotional impact is shown over a period of a week in the multi-award winning film, 45 Years, directed and written for screen by Andrew Haigh adapted from David Constatine’s short story in Another Country

Kate Mercer (played by a mesmeric Charlotte Rampling) is a retired school teacher married to
Geoff Mercer (played with understated charm by Tom Courtenay) also retired. She is in the midst of organising their 45th wedding anniversary party. They have no children and instead have a dog but their enduring yet fragile marriage is tested when Geoff receives news that the body of his first love has been discovered in the Alps.

The film is magificient in the character study of Kate and Geoff and their relationship. Charlotte Rampling through gestures and looks conveys the insecurities that Kate Mercer is beset with. The power of her performance is all the more heartbreaking and authentic as she starts off as this quiet but affable retired school teacher but builds up to a deafening crescendo by the end of the week with the realisation that maybe she was not enough for Geoff. Tom Courtenay as Geoff conveys so well the angst that his character feels – the ghost of his past life that threatens not only to overshadow the 45th wedding anniversary party but, also, everything he has built up over the past 45 years with Kate. Andrew Haigh manages to keep the tension as taut and strained as the emotions that Kate and Geoff experience throughout the week.

The majesty of 45 years is not only in the story but also the cinematography: the scenes on the canal boat, when both Geoff and Kate start smoking are such powerful metaphors. Their dance at the end to Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by the Platters at the end is a master class in acting and why Charlotte Rampling jointly won the award for Best Perfomance in a British Feature Film at Edinburgh Film Festival 2015. Andrew Haigh manages to not only show how couples remember their joint history differently but also the inevitable betrayal that individuals feel when they realise that what they thought had happened didn’t happen in the way they thought. This coupled with a film finally showing an authentic portrayal of how men and women have different emotional responses to situations. This for me was my abiding memory of the film, women and men are different and even after 45 years do we ever really come close to understanding each other.

45 Years was shown as part of Best of British films at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and
was awarded The Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at the festival. The film had already won at Berlin, now Edinburgh and I suspect the awards will keep comin gfor this sublime film of a fractured marriage and two individuals in it.

The film will be on general release in UK cinemas from 28 August.

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