Have you ever kept a terrible secret from your significant other? If they found out, you’d best hope it doesn’t turn out like Andrew Haigh’s shocking new film 45 years.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
How well do we really know the people we love? It’s the question that will linger in your mind long after witnessing Andrew Haigh’s (Weekend) incredible relationship drama 45 Years.
Having missed their 40th wedding anniversary due to medical complications, elderly couple Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) prepare a party to celebrate their 45th year together as a replacement. In the week leading up to it, Geoff receives unexpected news that his former lover’s body has been discovered, preserved in the icy glaciers of Switzerland. He becomes increasingly distant and obsessive with his old flame as the week passes, leading Kate, who is initially unsettled, to become jealous and suspicious of what Tom might be hiding about his past life. The surprising and disturbing revelations she slowly uncovers throw her marriage perceptions into question, and she wonders if her near-half-century with the man she loves has been a sham.
45 Years is a big film disguised as a small one, filled to the brim with quiet moments that lead to something truly explosive. It’s quite possibly the most brutally honest and real portrayal of an old couple ever committed to film – this side of Amour at least, though whereas that reinforced the lifelong love between an aged husband and wife by bringing them together through tragedy, Haigh’s film is like the anti-Amour; deconstructing a strong pairing at such a crucial and poignant life event, and challenging anything we might perceive about the notion of everlasting love.
Kate and Geoff are not the elusive, tender and all-caring grandparents we’re used to (and not just because they don’t have children); they communicate casually and face the kind of drama we’re more accustomed to seeing in a young relationship, making this a wholly relatable experience for couples of all ages. It’s a slow burn with all the tension of a mystery thriller; Haigh has impressively crafted something that could have been melodramatic or uninspired into a fresh, shocking and rich tour-de-force.
As the married duo themselves, Haigh could not have asked for a more patient, committed or attentive pair of actors to bounce off one another with vibrant chemistry. Charlotte Rampling is brilliant, every tiny twitch of her face telling of the horror beneath as she discovers there is much more to her husband than meets the eye. Tom Courtenay is equally excellent as the man with great secrets to hide, giving a distressing depth to his misleadingly senile ramblings. Together, Rampling and Courtenay form what is sure to become one of cinema’s most memorable marriages.
It’s difficult to discuss 45 Years without giving too much away; it’s an enormously absorbing experience that demands to be witnessed for full impact, but be warned – it’s bound to provoke some awkward conversations with your significant other on the car ride home.
In a just world, blistering, challenging originals like this would sweep the awards shows, pulling the red carpet out from beneath the feet of the safer options the Academy settles on. But none of that matters; you need know only this – 45 Years is earth-shattering, and absolutely unmissable.
45 Years is available in Australian cinemas from February 11th
Images courtesy of Madman Entertainment