Relationships are difficult to maintain. Especially in this era, most people have gotten used to frivolous and short term dalliances rather than life long relationships. But then, what exactly does one achieve through such a relationship? What happens when after decades of a steady relationship, we find out that it was not as ideal as it seemed? Not a very comfortable question, isn’t it? However, 45 Years asks exactly throws questions that we would prefer to ignore and just hope that we do not have to go through the same.
It is about an ageing couple, Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay), preparing for their 45th anniversary. What can possibly be wrong with their relationship that has lasted almost half a century? Even if there was something in the past, can it really come back to haunt them? As it turns out, not everything was as simple as it seemed. Peter had another lover earlier who had got buried in snow and died during a trek in Switzerland. This is something they had forgotten in all these years . But now her body has been dug out somehow and Peter thinks the snow has preserved her youthful looks. He starts behaving in a bit awkward manner which disturbs Kate. She learns more things about that other woman in her husband’s life and their relationship. They still have the grand anniversary party, but something remains amiss.
As expected from the best traditions of arthouse films, it is not a film that offers any resolution or even tries the same. It has a very cold and hard look at the relationships and their fragility in a matter of fact manner. In fact the indecisive and abrupt ending of the film just mirrors the indecisiveness most people would feel while faced with such circumstances during a devastating finale and leaves the audience with a sense of doom.
The film unnerves the viewer with innocuous yet eerie turn of events. For example, the other woman who died fifty years ago remains preserved in snow. Her lasting image is of her youth while Kate is now far older and retired. Slowly it is seen that the couple has not had a very romantic life anyways. They do not have too many photographs of themselves as Geoff apparently thinks that it is more important to savour the moment rather than wasting time clicking pictures. But this nonconformist attitude is just a facade. Slowly we learn that he still has an old camera and pictures of his deceased first love. Also, they have no children apparently due to a mutual decision but the last few images of that woman shows that she was pregnant at that time.
Director Andrew Haigh’s best decision here is to go for two actors from the swinging sixties. Rampling and Courtenay are ideal to play the characters of that age who were at their peak in the 60s. Their individual histories, along with their performance, elevate the film to a different level. Haigh himself does a solid work by picking up the most delicate and subdued facets of a relationship and eschewing loud melodrama which could have easily marred the project. In short, 45 Years is a film for mature audience who are interested in exploring difficult nuances and uncertainties of a relationship. Watch it if that is what you are looking for. Although, do not expect a happy ending.