A single piece of new information can radically alter the way we perceive things.
For Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate (Charlotte Rampling), who are preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary, that piece of information concerns a young woman named Katya, whose body was just discovered in the Swiss Alps after plummeting to her death some five decades earlier. Geoff was with her when she fell, but hasn’t mentioned her to Kate in the years since her passing. Suddenly, her presence becomes inescapable in the home Geoff and Kate have made for themselves. As Geoff begins to heavily reminisce about his relationship with Katya to himself, Kate begins to discover just how many of Katya’s characteristics she shares, and how Katya’s presence has been in their home for decades.
45 Years is the newest film from writer/director Andrew Haigh, whose previous film Weekend explored the blossoming relationship between two men after a one-night stand begins to turn into something more. As the title suggests, he’s now exploring a relationship at the other end of its run, one that appears to be rock solid. 45 Years takes that relationship and breaks it down as Kate begins to understand just how little she knows about her husband.
The story comes from “In Another Country,” a short story by David Constantine. The film shares the story’s premise, as well as some of its dialogue, but it also maintains the overall efficiency of a short story. Running at 95 minutes, the film doesn’t delve into unwanted subplots or scenes that don’t add to the narrative. It’s simply a day-by-day look at the relationship between Geoff and Kate, culminating with the anniversary party.
The film as a whole – and that last scene in particular – rely on its talented pair of actors to sell the story. Courtenay and Rampling are able to sell a relationship that’s lasted for decades with only the smallest of details. Rampling, in particular, gives a knockout performance as she slowly begins to understand just how monumental a figure Katya is in her husband’s life. There’s nothing overly dramatic about her work. It relies on subtlety, and demands that audiences pay close attention to her. It’s a rewarding experience.