Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James
Director: Andrew Haigh
Forty-five years is a pretty long time. The time I have spent on this planet, I have come to know about the things that are important and things that are temporary. I have heard that time heals and makes you forget things. I have also heard that time does not actually heal, it simply puts your things in one corner, covering it with a sheet, until one day, a sudden gust of wind blows the cover away and you see it all there.
This is the story of an old couple, which has spent 45 years in a perfectly happy and satiated life, only to settle down in a sleepy town. They aren’t exceptional people who would usually inspire you or make you want to take out your bucket list. Suddenly, their peaceful, old and sleepy life experiences an explosion. The movie starts from here making you wonder if it did not happen. But then, perhaps, there was no reason to even notice them, just like the hundreds of old people we are surrounded by.
The explosion is the discovery of the body of Geoff Mercer’s (Tom Courtenay) ex-girlfriend. He was in a relationship with her before he married Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling). Though he had mentioned it to his wife earlier. The discovery of Katja’s body sparks a sudden intrigue — the old and fragile man, who would not readily like to go for a walk, gets rattled and starts gasping for strength. Strength to revisit memories, old photos and perfume. He starts contemplating whether he should go to the mountains, where Katja was trapped, frozen in the ice. She looked exactly like she did more than 45 years ago, like she was in a time capsule — the ice had frozen her too fast.
The news was comes across as a strange incident at first. But then it grows and evolves into a volcano that would burn the happiness and peace that Kate was so much in comfort with. It starts melting like an iceberg, submerging her plans of celebrating their 45th anniversary. Suddenly, the man she had known for 45 years seems like a stranger, completely different from the one she knew. Kate enquires, like teenagers do to know how special they are for their partners, and tries to be understanding, but finds it all too difficult.
45 Years is a very slow film, contrary to what one is used to seeing on the large screen these days. There are long takes and still frames, no fast cuts, no jumpy timelines and absolutely no special effects. The image has grains, the same way as old faces develop wrinkles. It is almost an attempt to see old age through an old lens, without artificial lighting. Everyone lives multiple lives, sometimes so many that one forgets to keep track. As long as these lives do not cross paths, it seems fine. Tom Courtenay is astonishingly honest in portraying his conflicts and articulating them to his wife, always keeping a safe distance, in order not to hurt her. Charlotte as Kate is exceptional in her expression of dismay and her gradual progression as a character.
The film is something that you should find time to watch, because it feels like a really long film even though it is just 91 minutes. As a statutory warning, do not watch this film with your significant other, maybe you will never get a letter about your ex who never was, but once someone really looks at you and starts poking, who knows what you might reveal?
The writer is founder, Lightcube Film Society