Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay
45 YEARS (2015). Writer/director: Andrew Haigh.

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.


angelman66 said...

You said it brilliantly, Bill, "subtlety can be overrated." I heartily agree.
Sometimes filmmakers are a little too earnest and forget about the entertainment factor. I do love Rampling, though, she is one of our greatest living actresses...

William said...

She got better as she got older and got cast in roles other than the "ice princess."