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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REVIEW: Weekend

10 03 2012

In a year that saw “No Strings Attached” and “Friends with Benefits” make light of sex’s role in determining the fate of a serious relationship, it’s very refreshing to see the dark and honest underside of those movies in “Weekend.”  Andrew Haigh’s British realist tale of two men (yes, get over it) attempting to determine what their one-night stand really means is a very illuminating film about assessing their values and priorities.  No matter your sexual orientation, the movie speaks to the tortured and uncertain romantic desires in all of us.

The characters, Tom Cullen’s Russell and Chris New’s Glen, are so lucidly and poignantly realized that their candid conversations never seem the tiniest bit fabricated.  Haigh’s intimate, fly-on-the-wall filming strategy pays dividends as we feel a part of the discussion, a third character in the narrative with no lines.  The naturalism is effortless, the execution practically flawless.

“Weekend” is mostly told in poignant shots and informal conversations, parts that seem small but ultimately add up to something big.  As Russell and Glen sort through their past, their commitments, and their futures, they start to get at the core of some very important questions for all couples to ask themselves.

Of course it wasn’t Academy-friendly because neither of the characters died – yes, this is real – but the real accomplishment of “Weekend” is to make a movie that speaks to the problems that all relationships face without ignoring or glossing over the particular challenges that face homosexuals in 2011.  It doesn’t shy away from some raw images, so if that makes you uncomfortable, then maybe this isn’t the movie for you.  But if you want to see the movie of 2011 that best captures humanity between the sheets, then this is definitely one to add to your Netflix queue.  B+