Rated: R for language and brief sexuality. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: December 23, 2015 Released by: Sundance Selects
ndrew Haigh digs into the nuances of relationships with emotional veracity in this counter programming late year release where the leads deliver a master class in acting. The director's screenplay is cogently drawn from a David Constantine short story, In Another Country.
45 Years (set in an idyllic southeastern Norfolk, England) stars the venerable Charlotte Rampling (Under The Sand, Swimming Pool and, much earlier, The Verdict with Paul Newman) and Tom Courtenay (Quartet) as middle-class British childless spouses Kate and Geoff Mercer with their beloved Alsatian dog Max. A celebration for their 40th anniversary never occurred because of Geoff's bypass surgery.
Their pleasant lengthy union, about to reach its eponymous point, is shaken to the core when a letter from Switzerland reaches Geoff. The body of his former German girlfriend Katya has been discovered fully preserved with Swiss officials needing him to identify the corpse. In 1962 during a hike in the Alps when acting as a betrothed pair Geoff became her next of kin after she fell to her death in a glacier crevasse.
A distraught Geoff looks back fondly at his time with Katya and admits if she hadn't perished he would have wed her. The strain on Kate is evident as Rampling delivers a weighty portrait which includes an attic scene where she learns something about Katya when she succumbed up in the high terrain. Far less screen time is given to thespians Geraldine James, Dolly Wells, and Richard Cunningham. But, they occupy the orbit of Kate and Geoff admirably enough to help color in the filmmaker's vision, as well as thematic intent.
Haigh works with technical staff in sensitively drawing a naturalistic look at intimacy and its vicissitudes which Rampling and Courtenay embrace incisively with convincing (hardly cloying) constancy. Sans an original musical score, a rich poignancy is felt throughout especially when certain songs offer an evocative telling stroke to a heartfelt, understated cinematic experience.