A week before Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) celebrate their 45 year anniversary together, a letter arrives in their home from Switzerland. The contents of the letter brings Geoff’s past into the present and causes great friction between him and Kate who finds herself re-evaluating their marriage.
With 45 Years you get exactly what you’d expect: a perfectly acted film that focuses on characters over plot and gets a little too miserable in its realism.
45 Years is a calm and quiet film. Long stretches are spent without dialogues and long shots of the moody, rainy country that surrounds Kate and Geoff. Surprisingly this is not at odds with the rising conflict between Kate and Geoff, but rather informs that conflict and transforms it into a slow melt-down that you barely notice until it’s too late.
This is probably a pretty realistic take on relationships and how they (almost?) fall apart. Even though the camera and with it the audience watches Kate closely and intensely – much more so than Geoff watches her – the severity of her emotions remain almost hidden. You just don’t want to see and believe it. That feeling is probably enhanced by the utter irrationality of Kate’s reaction – which doesn’t mean that it’s any less valid, just to be clear.
While that may be realisitc, it’s a depressing take on the world and I would have loved to get a more positive ending. Not because I don’t like realism or because I need happy endings all the time, but it was just so incredibly bleak. I wanted things to be better for both of them.
But even if the ending wasn’t my thing, it is a beautifully crafted film. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are great in their roles, and I also enjoyed Geraldine James. The beautiful images are joined by beautiful music. And everything is suffused with an entrancing atmosphere that doesn’t let you go easily.