45 Years is a subtle, quiet and tragically beautiful film about older age and long-time love.
For all intents and purposes a two-hander, it focuses on the interior world of a long-married couple: Charlotte Rampling is superb as the wife who is busy planning an anniversary celebration while simultaneously watching her marriage inadvertently undermined by her gentle husband, played by Tom Courtenay.
Long-held shots set the scene of their initially peaceful existence before the arrival of unanticipated news which disinters timeworn feelings. The subsequent stillness of the photography showcases the expertise of these two fine actors as Kate and Geoff are forced to negotiate corners on their marital road that neither had foreseen.
Recently turned 70 and with a five-decade career to her name, Rampling is captivating in her first ever Oscar-nominated role (she was never likely to win it, but that matters little since she has already won nine other awards for this performance). Through saying very little and moving even less, she conveys how emotionally eviscerating the situation is becoming for her, while Courtenay never throws his gender under the bus, but instead creates a naturally complex human being grappling with understandably complex human sentiment.
Simple yet devastating in its premise, 45 Years is a gripping tale which unfolds with no cinematic trickery or clever editing to speak of. It amply demonstrates that despite four and a half decades of sharing a life, there are still things you don’t know about each other, even in an ostensibly healthy, long relationship.
Director Andrew Haigh produced an equally insightful portrayal of love in his multi-award winning feature Weekend, a straight-up story of two young gay men in contemporary England. Applying a similarly astute touch in 45 Years, the narrative revelations are heartbreakingly realistic and admirably judgement-free, making this all the more a powerhouse of storytelling.