Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James
Director: Andrew Haigh
Running Time: 95 mins
45 Years is a British film about a husband and wife who, in the week leading up to their 45th anniversary, receive unexpected news that shakes the stability of their marriage to its core.
The most fundamental objective of any film is to convince you that its story is real, and I have to say that 45 Years does an absolutely terrific job at that. With two brilliant understated performances, great direction, and a strong emotional atmosphere, this is a very well-made film, and one that at times can really engross you in what seems like a pretty unspectacular story.
Let’s start with the performances. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star in the lead roles as the married couple who hit an obstacle just before their 45th anniversary. Put simply, they’re both stunning, but it’s because they manage to make all their emotion seem so real.
In comparison to an American familial drama like August: Osage County, where a lot of the performances are very showy and dramatic, this more understated British drama is so much more powerful because it manages to remain totally understated. Real life problems aren’t all about screaming and making a huge deal out of it, sometimes it’s all very subdued, but in that, it can be so much more affecting and damaging, and it was really impressive to see 45 Years pull that off so well, and make such a realistic story.
What’s more is that the directing is just as effective. Whilst it may seem like a very simple look at a married couple’s life together, I felt that there were some very subtle techniques at play here. Most impressively, Andrew Haigh manages to make this film feel quite claustrophobic. As tension slowly builds between the husband and wife, I felt a growing sense of being trapped and frustrated boiling under the surface, and a lot of that comes from Haigh’s excellent visual techniques to make some scenes really quite claustrophobic.
Of course, despite the ingenuity of the realism of this film, there comes a built-in problem with the ‘real life’ genre in itself, and that’s that it can often feel a little underwhelming. Whilst I was hugely impressed by the majority of the film, and in fact almost brought to tears by the fantastic ending, there are undoubtedly moments where this film can get a little dull.
The majority of those moments, however, are in the first act, so it’s good to see that the screenplay was good enough to get me more involved as the film moved along, but at the beginning, I was occasionally struggling to see what was so important about everything that was going on.
So, what I’m saying there is that, if you watch 45 Years, you need to give it time. It’s a slow film, without a doubt, but by the end, it’s an engrossing and impressively understated film with amazing realism, and that’s why it gets a 7.4 from me.