by Samantha Ho
Rated M. Starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. Directed by Andrew Haigh.
Geoff Mercer (Courtenay) and Kate Mercer (Rampling) have a week to plan an extravagant party for their 45th wedding anniversary, when Geoff receives the news that the dead body of his former girlfriend has been recovered in Switzerland. As this is the first time Kate hears about her husband’s previous romantic interest, she is left wondering whether she is in competition for her husband’s feelings.
Each day leading up to the party is chronicled with crescendoing tension in 45 Years, but in a very subtle fashion. Very little happens plot-wise, but a lot is revealed about the relationship dynamics of the Mercers. When it appears that Kate is heading towards acceptance of the situation, another secret destroys her trust of her husband. It’s clear that what is said about a relationship isn’t solely through the words spoken, but also the silent choices of the everyday. Rampling plays a stunning victim trying to make sense of the situation whilst the viewer plays catch up.
It was enjoyable watching how much drama could be portrayed against the simplistic surroundings of Norfolk. This is a big plus, because the attention is drawn to the duo’s performance and how the cinematography supports it. The choice of music for their anniversary party (especially The Platters’ Smoke Gets In Your Eyes) is also noteworthy, as it presents a prophetic indictment on their relationship woes.
As I write this review, I’m approaching my first anniversary of marriage. One of the most memorable parts of our dating season was pre-marital counselling with our church pastor. In one session entitled ‘conflict resolution’, we watched a video of a real middle-aged American couple going back and forth bemoaning the loss of their intimacy and joy, before a mediator tried to help them through it. Watching 45 Years made me feel like that mediator. Whilst the British might be more gently spoken in their conflicts, they’re not free from the friction of sin on their relationships.
So how are Geoff and Kate meant to move forward?
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
The love that Christians know is selfless and other-person-centred. We know that there will be times where our relationships aren’t characterised by the love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13. But we are confident in Jesus being the perfect fulfilment and example of this. And so we trust in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit’s work, to make us people who mirror him day by day. And marriage is one of those contexts where we can see this very clearly.
The Verdict: 45 Years is a harrowing watch, with some very powerful performances. 4.5/5
45 Years releases in Australia on Thursday, 18th February. It is currently screening in the US and UK.