DVD/Stream of the Week: 45 YEARS – you can’t unring the bell

Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling in 45 YEARS

Tom Courtneay and Charlotte Rampling in 45 YEARS

Here’s a movie on my Best Movies of 2015 list with an enthralling Oscar-nominated performance by Charlotte Rampling. In the quietly engrossing drama 45 Years, we meet the married couple Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate (Rampling), a well-suited pair who share each others’ values sensibilities and senses of humor. They are planning a party to mark their 45th anniversary when Geoff learns that the body of his previous girlfriend (killed in a mountain climbing accident 47 years ago ) has been found preserved in ice. He is knocked for a loop, and then slides into complete shock. He becomes brooding, even obsessed about his old flame and his youth.

Kate tries to settle Geoff and be supportive. But she learns one thing about his old flame, and then a second, and suddenly she’s the one who become the most troubled. She says, “I can hardly be cross about something before we existed, could I?….Still…” She asks him a question that she shouldn’t have. Her feelings may or may not be justified or rational, but they are her feelings, and they become the facts on the ground.

Geoff is usually the one who gets to burst out with his feelings, and Kate cleans up after. But Kate’s feelings are so much more complicated than Geoff’s.

45 Years meditates on the power and durability of memories and then shifts into a study of relationships. We see intimacy without the sharing of all truths, and see how the truth can be toxic and destructive. We live based on assumptions, and when those are revealed to be not fully correct, well, you can’t unring the bell.  Camera Cinema Club Director Tim Sika overheard a critic colleague describe 45 Years thus, “It’s about nothing until you realize that’s it’s about everything”.

Writer-director Andrew Haigh is a brilliant storyteller. He lets the audience connect the dots. Our involvement in 45 Years intensifies as we piece together the back story and as the characters learn about new developments. There’s a wonderful undercoating of early 60s pop, a great soundtrack that avoids seeming like a jukebox.

Charlotte Rampling is marvelous and gives one of the greatest performances of the year in cinema. Rampling is most searing in Kate’s unspoken moments, in which we see her anguish, amusement, unease, radiance and heartbreak. It’s remarkable that such emotional turbulence can be portrayed without a hint of melodrama.
toryteller. He lets the audience connect the dots. Our involvement in <em>45 Years</em> intensifies as we piece together the back story and as the characters learn about new developments. There’s a wonderful undercoating of early 60s pop, a great soundtrack that avoids seeming like a jukebox.

Charlotte Rampling is marvelous and gives one of the greatest performances of the year in cinema. Rampling is most searing in Kate’s unspoken moments, in which we see her anguish, amusement, unease, radiance and heartbreak. It’s remarkable that such emotional turbulence can be portrayed without a hint of melodrama.

Before you see 45 Years, I’d suggest a careful reading of the lyrics to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
Something here inside
Can not be denied

They, said some day you’ll find
All who love are blind
When you heart’s on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes

So I chaffed them, and I gaily laughed
To think they would doubt our love
And yet today, my love has gone away
I am without my love

Now laughing friends deride
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes

[SPOILER ALERT – I think that the tipping point in their relationship occurs when Kate says, “Open your eyes”.]

I’ve also written a companion essay on the film45 Years is available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and to stream from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

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