Wednesday, February 10, 2016

45 YEARS (2015)

Rated: R

STARS: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay
DIRECTOR: Andrew Haigh
GENRE: Drama 

In 45 Years, Charlotte Rampling breaks her string of appearing nude in most every film I've ever seen her in--going back to the sadistic and sexually explicit The Night Porter from 1974. She was the darling of the art house films, where her body was on more prominent display than her acting chops. I only bring it up because now, at age 70, she's regarded as a serious actor--much the same as Helen Mirren, who was free-spirited enough in her youth to display her ample attributes in similar fashion--even appearing in the notorious semi-porn flick, Caligula. Later in life, we watched Mirren glide up to the stage on Oscar night, and now Rampling has an opportunity to do the same with her Best Actress nomination for 45 Years.

Kate and Geoff Mercer have what you'd call a polite relationship. It's all very British. They're not revealing anything that lies beneath the surface. They're planning a party for their forty-fifth wedding anniversary. Everything seems to be on track. Then Geoff receives a letter announcing that "she's been found." The letter refers to an old  girlfriend of his who fell into a crevasse while hiking in the Swiss Alps and perished at the age of 27.  Geoff sits there explaining the letter to Kate in an absent-minded way--he's quite drawn into his thoughts. She thinks it's odd that he never told her about the girl. Well, he thought he did. Maybe it was so long ago that neither of them have much recollection of it.  It could have just stayed one of those curious things between couples who only communicate on a certain level. They would have moved on with their polite lives. If Geoff hadn't become increasingly distracted by the realization that the girl's body would be perfectly preserved after all those years in her icy tomb. She will look just the same as the last time he saw her.

We witness the emotional progressions on Kate's face as she contemplates the invading question of how much the two of them might have meant to each other. As the week leading up to their anniversary celebration passes, Geoff takes up smoking again, and begins behaving in peculiar ways. When Kate discovers he has visited a travel agency, inquiring about a possible trip to Switzerland, she begins to question what their entire marriage has been about.

45 Years is adult cinema. Not the kind Rampling cut her teeth on, rather a drama for grownups who appreciate thoughtful films. It progresses slowly, as one treading upon the ice would be wise to do--leading to a delicious and devastating climax that will leave Kate...with more questions than answers.

Grade:  B +


I've been far less forgiving than Tim about the movies we've seen lately. And I'm sorry to report that 45 Years won't change that trend, either. I realize that it takes cinematic time to create a long-term marriage, with all its daily routines and unspoken but understood communications. But slow moving can often produce a sleepy audience. (At least that's what this film did for me.)

Before 45 Years began, I was impressed with the opening credits. The click-clicking of a projector as each name came on screen. Later, when Charlotte Rampling's character watches an old movie, clicking from one image to another, witnessing something that will change her relationship with her husband forever, I was reminded of those opening credits. And was even more impressed.

There were moments—albeit fleeting ones—that smacked of originality and tour de force acting. But as I left the theater, I must admit I felt insanely grateful to be living alone. If any of you long for everlasting togetherness in the sunset years of your life, this film will cure you of that notion. It may not be as dark as, say, The Revenant. But in its own way, it's even darker. Although Ms. Rampling is up for an Oscar, I thought Tom Courteney's performance was even better. (And the dog did an outstanding job, too!)

Grade: C