|Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay|
Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling) and her husband Geoff (Tom Courtenay of Dr. Zhivago) are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary with a big party. In shades of Roald Dahl's "Crystal Trench," Geoff then gets a letter telling him that the body of his old flame, Katya -- who fell into a crevasse decades ago while the two vacationed in Switzerland -- has been discovered perfectly preserved in ice. Now 45 Years could have gone in any of a number of directions. Will the police show up to arrest Geoff for murder? Will Kate wonder about her husband's true actions all those years ago? Since 45 Years is neither a thriller nor a suspense film (not even psychological suspense) what we really get is a very deliberately-paced examination of a marriage in crisis. Is Kate making too much of Geoff's earlier relationship with the long-dead and once very pregnant Katya, or has she come to realize that for the whole 45 years of her marriage she's only been a substitute for her? [The much talked about final shot makes it pretty clear which is which, or at least what Kate thinks is which.] The film has been wildly overpraised in critical quarters, excoriated elsewhere, but I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. Based on a very short story, this probably would have made a much more effective and interesting half hour television drama than a feature film that is three times as long. The performances of the two leads, especially that of former "ice princess" Rampling [The Verdict], are excellent. Rampling also came in for a fair share of criticism from those, remembering her earlier image, who still think she comes off frigid, but I confess that is not at all apparent in her performance. It's a pleasure to see a film about senior citizens, even the elderly, in this day and age (although it's a question if thirty-something film critics can really relate to it) but I just wish this had been a more memorable movie. Strange that 45 Years received an R rating for a couple of four-letter words that every kid has heard and for an aborted bedroom sequence that is much less steamy than anything seen in afternoon soap operas. I mean 45 Years is not a film where breasts are flashed and limbs torn off every other minute! I wonder if some people liked the film more than they might have simply because this is the case?
Verdict: Interesting premise, good performances, but ultimately ... so what? Subtlety can be over-rated. **1/2.