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Film review: 45 Years - Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay haunted by past

Heart-wrenching marital drama unravels in minute increments over the course of a single week, its measured direction allowing the talents of two veteran performers to carry the weight of the unfolding tragedy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016, 5:00pm

4/5 stars

An ageing couple’s marriage is put through the wringer when an unexpected letter arrives in 45 Years, a meticulously crafted drama that has won worldwide praise and plaudits for leads Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.

Kate and Geoff Mercer are preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. Childless yet seemingly happy, the Mercers have fallen into a comfortable routine of familiarity. But everything changes when Geoff receives a letter from Switzerland, revealing that the body of his first love, who died in a climbing accident 50 years earlier, has finally been discovered, preserved in a glacier.

‘I’m not counting’: Charlotte Rampling on her decades-spanning career, and her Oscar-nominated role in 45 Years

As Geoff spirals into an emotional crisis he is unable to discuss with his wife, Kate is faced with revelations that throw their entire life together into question. Written and directed by Andrew Haigh, acclaimed for his examination of homosexual relationships in Greek Pete (2009) and Weekend (2011), this is a heart-wrenching story that unravels in minute increments over the course of a single week.

Haigh’s direction is measured and reserved, allowing the talents of his two veteran performers to carry the weight of the unfolding tragedy. At the 2015 Berlin Film Festival, both Courtenay and Rampling won Silver Bears for the film, while the latter rode the wave of plaudits all the way to her first Academy Award nomination earlier this year.

After giving us a film about the choices we make and how they define our lives, Haigh ends 45 Years on a note of crippling ambiguity. Offering no easy answers, he passes the baton of responsibility back to the individual, in a move that is both empowering and quietly terrifying.

45 Years opens on April 14

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