REVIEW: 45 Years

26 12 2015

45 YearsAndrew Haigh’s “45 Years” provided me a joyously maddening experience the likes of which I can honestly say I don’t think I had felt since “The Wolf of Wall Street” back in 2013. As these movies rolled into their conclusion, I thought I had completely made up my mind about them after seeing a relatively homogenous product throughout.

Then, a brilliant final shot flashes before the credits, and I am left reeling. Given a new picture with which to reframe everything, I have no choice but to dwell on it much longer than I had anticipated. Haigh’s film has the benefit of being literally half the length of Scorsese’s, so the bait-and-switch feels a little less frustrating. But what to make of a film that feels relatively monotone for 90 minutes only to crescendo out of the blue?

I don’t think this qualifies as a “spoiler” to discuss the close of “45 Years” so heavily; this stunning shot is not any kind of plot twist. It simply casts the rest of the film’s events in a much different light, and it does so with forceful impact.

Most of “45 Years” unfolds like a chamber play between the greying Mercer couple, Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay). His declining health prompts the celebration of their anniversary at a rather odd interval – the 45th year – and things only getting stranger with a bombshell revelation that comes in the post the week of the event. This news, seemingly simple, sends shockwaves through their long marriage that have profound, lasting implications.

The inciting event is nothing too spectacular or far-fetched, and it only serves to inspire a muted, grounded reaction from the principal cast. Haigh stands back and lets the camera observe them taking in the ramifications. This has a particularly haunting effect when following Rampling, whose character recalls Jimmy Stewart’s Scottie from “Vertigo” in her determined wandering. The tone gets established early and remains consistent throughout, almost allowing the film to lull the viewer into a certain complacency…

…only to receive the jolt of the final shot, carried by Rampling in an extraordinarily devastating fashion. I feel like I could watch this scene on YouTube again and again, and part of me wonders how much I really need the hour-and-a-half vamp of “45 Years” to receive the gut punch at the same strength. B+3stars

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