There is no such thing as failure. Richard Branson

Alone together

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay face their past as a married couple in “45 Years”.

Sometimes a movie raises so many questions that the audience is left perplexed. And sometimes a film raises only so many questions that the audience is provoked to think about it, is left in an abeyance of “could be”.

Growing estrangement

The latter holds true for „45 Years“, the new film by British director Andrew Haigh. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play Kate and Geoff Mercer, a couple on the brink of their 45th wedding anniversary. This event is supposed to be celebrated with a big party – Geoff’s bypass surgery got in the way of celebrating their 40th anniversary five years ago. The couple, both retired, lives happy and childless, following their daily routines. However, the marital idyll is apruptly destroyed when Geoff receives a letter from Switzerland: The dead body of his ex-girlfriend Katya has been found.

Katya died falling into an ice crevice when she was on a walking holiday with Geoff in 1962. Geoff is considered her next-of-kin, because the couple pretended to be married during the trip. While Kate continues to prepare the party – music has to be chosen, the seating arrangement has to be settled – her husband concerns himself more and more with his past and Katya. He thinks about travelling to Switzerland, restarts smoking and searches the attic for old souvenirs. This behaviour increasingly disturbs Kate. And, little by little, things are brought to light which she would rather not have known. The couple is incapable of finding a common language to discuss their experience.

„45 Years“ is the story of two people who spent nearly all their life together and now have to realize that they never talked about certain essential things. The daily life continues, but Geoff and Kate increasingly grow apart – Kate starts to feel neglected, a feeling reinforced by Geoffs admission that he would have married Katya, hadn’t she died. Lol Crawley’s camera captures even the smallest emotion on the weathered faces of Courtenay and Rampling. To some extent, the staging is reminiscent of an intimate theater.

In abeyance

In the end, Geoff and Kate celebrate their anniversary with friends and family – but nothing is really settled. Will the two be able to let the past behind them? Does Geoff, as discreetly hinted at, indeed have an alcohol problem? And is the fact that Katya was pregnant when she fell into the ice crevice one of the reasons the marriage remained childless? “45 Years” has no interest in giving defined answers to these questions. It is an unagitated, quiet film that nevertheless gets to the essential. And it raises the question of how we are handling decisions, we once made.

Translated from German.

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