Film Review: Andrew Haigh’s ’45 Years’

This British drama, 45 years (2015), has been screened at many famous film festivals, such as the 65th Berlin International Film Festival and the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival; Charlotte Rampling, the female lead role, even received a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role on the 88th Academy Awards. This movie definitely has a lot to say to the audience. The film is based on the short story In Another Country, by David Constantine, which tells of a story about an old couple, Kate and Geoff Mercer.

This childless English couple live a casual, mundane and monotonous life together with neither adventure nor stress. It is the week’s lead up to their anniversary party, which is likely to be the final time they will be able to celebrate such a milestone and their love for each other. This moment is very important to the couple, especially for Kate, who secretly seeks confirmation of her marriage; almost as though she requires this declaration of love from her husband to feel some form of fulfilment.

However, life decides to wake the skeletons in their closet and shake their humble existence. A letter arrives from Switzerland, challenging the core of their relationship, and taking them back to the past to 50 years ago, before they had even met. Geoff was then only 25 and madly in love with a girl, Katya. Tragically, Katya died in a hiking accident when scaling the Swiss Alps with Geoff – her body was never recovered. The letter informs Geoff that her body had finally been found, 50 years on, prisoner to an ice cell.  Katya’s body was preserved by the ice which became her untimely coffin, allowing her body to freeze in time and thus avoid ageing – she looked as youthful as the day she died. Her life ended abruptly, without progression or completion, feelings, thoughts, and desires never able to be expressed. This revelation drags Geoff back to his past-self, even if his body has aged, to the question, did that ice also preserve his feelings for her? Both of them, Kate and Geoff, must go through their own process and question of the core values their relationship. Did they make a good choice by being with each other? 

45 years is a long time yet, even after only the first scene of the movie, it’s clear to see that this couple has a very laid-back married life; a comfortable one in which they could develop an everyday routine throughout the years.  Just like their marriage works, the director records the life of the couple with slow moving pictures that gives us the feeling we are actually living the their lives. The setting of the movie is mainly concentrated in the couple’s home. The atmosphere is very icy, and it’s getting colder as the drama starts to unfold itself. Andrew Haigh mainly achieves this by not using any background music through the movie, until the end, when the final song reminds the audience we were only watching a movie.

This film is deep and thought-provoking; imagine how it would feel if towards your final years you come to the realisation that everything you have done so far was for the wrong person? That’s what makes this a very moving film. Once they realize there are hidden past-lives, stories, and secrets that they don’t know about each other, it changes the whole view of their relationship.  They need to realise that despite the many years spent together they still have lots of aspects to learn about each other and themselves.

By Csenge Krokovay

The Verse Staff

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