Review: “45 Years”
“45 Years” is an object lesson in the art of patient filmmaking.
The story focuses on the Mercers, an aging couple (played by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) about to celebrate their 45th anniversary.
The film starts with the news that the body of Geoff Mercer’s ex-girlfriend—who supposedly died hiking in the Swiss Alps with Geoff while the two were still together—has been recovered after 50 years.
“45 Years” benefits from the writing and direction of Andrew Haigh, as well as Lol Crawley’s remarkable cinematography. Charlotte Rampling has already won numerous awards for her superlative performance.
Shots linger, often deliberately obscuring what seems to be the focal point of a scene. The film does not turn away from silence and stillness, instead it amplifies diegetic sounds and uses the landscape as a character.
Cuts within scenes are sparse and unpredictable—often occuring in the middle of a line of dialogue—but their use is made more meaningful by editor Jonathan Alberts’ conservative approach.
The best scene in the movie tells two stories simultaneously as Kate Mercer looks at old photographs on a projector.
Never cut, the shot asks the audience to empathize both understanding Geoff’s old relationship and sympathizing with Kate: essentially the same decision faced by Geoff himself.
The movie’s slow, deliberate pace makes its story all the more compelling, adding complexity to its characters and infusing tension and subtext into brief, simple scenes. Visuals are symbolic without being heavy-handed.
Kate Mercer is framed against an open landscape to convey her feelings of insignificance and helplessness, shot close and with her interlocutors obscured when she is unable to communicate.
Her face is bathed in warmer lighting as her anger grows, and blue tones when she becomes sad.
The movie has its weaknesses. Haigh’s dialogue doesn’t have the same depth as the story suggests, and the movie stutters toward the end, its slow pace bordering on boring.
Despite its relatively minor faults, “45 Years” offers keen insight into long-term, monogamous relationships, the inability to wholly know our loved ones, and the immutable progression of time, all with real human warmth and tenderness. The movie subverts expectations by refusing the reductive solutions of storytelling and imbues the future with the same ambiguity that now plagues the characters’ pasts. Both moving and intelligent, stylistically engaging and substantive, “45 Years” is well worth watching.
“45 Years” opens at the Bijou on Friday, Feb. 5.