By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Long lasting marriages are a rarity in modern times. Not everyone has the patience or tolerance to handle the character flaws and mistakes of a spouse, nor can everyone make the necessary sacrifices and compromises required to make a marriage work. While there are no such things as a perfect marriage, some marriages are happier than others—even the ones that have endured the strains of time. Writer/director Andrew Haigh’s new film, 45 Years, offers a portrait of a married couple whose relationship will be soon reaching the half century mark, but is far from perfect, and still has an uncertain future.
Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star as Kate and Geoff Mercer, a retired married couple who seemingly live a quite happy life in the country. In a few days, the Mercers will celebrate their forty-fifth wedding anniversary with a large party of family and friends. The couple had originally planned to celebrate their fortieth year, but Geoff’s health problems forced them to cancel. As the couple enjoys their peaceful retired life and completes the final arrangements for their celebration, some unexpected news regarding Geoff’s past arrives and rocks the relationship to its very core. This new development causes both Charlotte and Geoff to re-evaluate their marriage and they realize that the roots of their relationship are more threadbare than they had thought.
Haigh’s powerful and haunting film does offer some solid writing, skillful direction, gorgeously composed cinematography, and compelling performances by the two lead actors. However, the movie feels a bit longer than necessary. Haigh’s scenes are often filled with long, awkward pauses and contemplative reflection on the characters and their situation, but Haigh overdoes this a bit. The excessive use of long, silent stretches drags the film down somewhat. After all is said and done, I couldn’t help, but think that perhaps this feature-length film could have been whittled down to an even more effective and powerful short film.
Nevertheless, there are still some extraordinary moments in the film and the performances by Rampling and Courtenay make the movie worth watching at least for a one time viewing. If one isn’t already familiar with the talent of these actors, then this movie would make for a fine introduction. Both Courtenay and Rampling bring genuine and palpable emotional frailty to these characters. Charlotte and Geoff come across as real and fully dimensional people with actual flaws and insecurities. Both actors beautifully express the emotions associated with loss, regret, and longing.
And it is because of their sublime performances in some of the film’s captivating scenes that drive me to reluctantly recommend this film for, at most, a matinee viewing at one’s local art house cinema. If relationship drama is one’s preference when it comes to movies, this is a film not to miss. Otherwise, I would wait to rent this movie when available on a home video medium. Like marriage, this film does require a good deal of patience. However, I am not entirely sold on the idea that it was absolutely necessary for this film as a whole when the writer/director could have delivered the film’s powerful message in a more compact and efficient short film.