Starring Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay
It has become “a thing”, almost every awards season for the “senior drama” to make waves, typically for a best actress contender. In 2013 it was Emmanuelle Riva for Amour who had the momentum of great reviews and international backing for the Austrian film that won best foreign language film at the Oscars. Julie Christie also benefited for her performance in Away From Her (2006), landing a best actress nomination. This year it’s Charlotte Rampling (Never Let Me Go) who has never been nominated, despite an acting career spanning 50 years. In what might be her most prolific performance, 45 Years isn’t as depressing as many of the films or performances of this nature, instead relies on internal anger and displacement of feelings.
Kate (Rampling) and husband Geoff (Courtenay) are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. Geoff was ill during their 40th, so they are making up for it this occasion with a part of their closest friends, original wedding music and speeches. However, a letter arriving a week prior to the celebration, announces that the body of Geoff’s girlfriend from 47 years ago has finally been found. Mentally and physically shaken by the news, for the first time in their marriage they discuss Katia. “I can’t be cross about something that happened before we existed, can I,” Kate asks casually. Yet as the week inches closer to their celebration, Geoff and Kate can’t think of anything else but Katia and both begin to suffer quietly, drifting apart during a time they should be so close.
Haigh’s script and direction not only cinematically deals with the sensitive issues but he inadvertently asks the audience how they might react in a similar situation.
45 Years isn’t groundbreaking, there are no special effects, it’s basically two people working through something very stressful at a time that should be anything but. Andrew Haigh’s script and direction not only cinematically deals with the sensitive issues but he inadvertently asks the audience how they might react in a similar situation. There are no heroes or villains, only feelings and silent suffering. How do you portray suffering without words, Rampling has certainly discovered a way. Without dramatic moments like her competitor Brie Larson (Room), or emotionally outgoing performance similar to Cate Blanchett (Carol) and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Rampling reflects internal anger and resentment in a way the (willing) audience understands.
The film, which is adapted from a short story, begins on Monday with a beautiful wide shot of Kate walking their dog. All the elements of fog, forest and dew are present to place this story in the English countryside (Norfolk). The film runs through each day leading up to the planned event, ending with close ups of the couple speaking a few words in bed before the light is turned out and the next day begins with another wide shot. The specific set of circumstances in the film allow the characters to go places I haven’t seen before. However 45 Years won’t appeal to those without patience and the ability decipher the mostly internalized performance.
Rampling gives the internalized performance of the year.