Review: 45 Years – Love locked in time

Mark Reynolds

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay bring a twilight dazzle to this quietly devastating portrait of a lengthy marriage that abruptly hits the rocks.

In the days before a public celebration of their 45th wedding anniversary, Kate and Geoff Mercer’s comfortable life is shattered by news from a time before they met.

A letter from Switzerland informs Geoff that the body of his first love Katya has been discovered locked in the ice of a glacier where she fell while they were on an Alpine walking holiday back in the early 1960s.

The stark image—unseen on screen—of frozen youth and beauty haunts the couple and threatens to split them apart. “A fissure, I suppose you’d call it—like a narrow crack in the rock,” Geoff tells Kate as he recounts the accident; little realising he’s prised open a rift with the power to tear apart their marriage.
 

"The fact that we all carry images of the two lead actors as bold, glamorous icons of youth adds poignancy as the late-life crisis is played out."
 

While Geoff is wistful and honest to a fault about his past feelings and long-standing regrets, Kate begins to surmise that their life together was forged on a lie.

Courtenay’s distraction and obsession with the past are gloriously underplayed, while Rampling’s controlled pragmatism barely conceals a seething sense of rage, jealousy and rejection.

The fact that we all carry images of the two lead actors as bold, glamorous icons of youth adds poignancy as the late-life crisis is played out, and a (mostly) jaunty and hopeful soundtrack of 1960s pop—‘I Only Want to Be With You’, ‘Happy Together’—conjures insistent hopes and dreams of bygone youth, only to pierce them with implacable present-day tribulations.

For his sharp, compassionate and gently funny second feature, writer-director Andrew Haigh adapted David Constantine’s short story In Another Country.

Where the original is told from Geoff’s point of view, the film brings Kate firmly into focus to serve up a wry, sprightly and potentially ruinous cocktail of love, loss, regret and envy.

45 Years is now on DVD and available in our online shop