Kate and Geoff Mercer seem to be happily ambling their way through their retirement and planning for their 45th wedding anniversary- the more traditionally celebrated 40th had to be postponed due to Geoff undergoing bypass surgery- until news comes that a perfectly preserved body has been found in the Swiss Alps. It transpires that the body is that of an earlier love of Geoff’s, Katya, prior to his meeting Kate and what starts off as an innocuous piece of news soon becomes a major issue between the couple with chilly ramifications that resonate through their relationship revealing cracks, insecurities and raising questions.
Starring Charlotte Rampling, in an outstanding performance, alongside Tom Courtenay and directed by Andrew Haigh who rose to prominence with his excellent debut ‘Weekend’ in 2011. Coaxing a perfectly emotionally pitched performance the film is often one of understatement but it is no less effective and often whistling winds in the background make up the only soundtrack denoting the chilly atmosphere and the haunting ghost of the past.
Taking place in the run up to their celebratory party the uncertainties Kate start to feel are compounded by Geoff’s forced admission that if Katya hadn’t died he would probably have married her. Discovering that he is listed as Katya’s next of kin is the point she realises that she perhaps knows her husband of 45 years a little less than she previously thought. After rooting around in the attic for information about her dead love rival Kate finds a selection of slides and photos which do nothing to reassure her as decisions which have informed aspects of their marriage are in those photos casting Katya as a spectre over the last forty five years. Even their names are similar.
Slow moving but effective ’45 Years’ shows a seemingly robust relationship built on shaky foundations. The film closes at the couple’s anniversary party and behind the carapace of happiness the smiles are as frozen as that body in the Swiss Alps.