Director: Andrew Haigh
Cast: Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay
Running time: 95 minutes
Release Date: 28th August
Relationships interest Andrew Haigh. His debut feature, Greek Pete, documented a year in the life of a London rent boy and his various customers, while his sophomoric effort, 2011’s acclaimed Weekend, looked at a fleeting encounter between two young men in Nottingham. For his third film – and his first since he decamped to San Francisco to create the HBO series Looking – the writer-director turns his eye to an altogether different type of romance.
Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are a childless couple in their seventies happily living out their twilight years in rural Norfolk. Their idyllic existence is interrupted morning when Geoff receives a letter informing him that the body of Katya, an ex-girlfriend of his who died in 1962, has been discovered in an Alpine crevasse. The revelation has a profound effect on both of our protagonists: Geoff goes rooting in the attic for old photographs and memories of Katya while Kate begins to wonder what might have been if her husband’s late lover had never been lost in the Swiss Alps.
Adapted from a short story by David Constantine, the 45 Years of the title refers to the couple’s upcoming wedding anniversary (their fortieth had to be cancelled due to Geoff’s illness) which they will celebrate with a long-delayed party amongst friends and family in five days’ time. The film moves along with a slow, purposeful melancholy and never opts for the obvious or overblown recriminations that you might sense are in the offing. Instead, the power lies in its quieter moments – desperate looks, thoughtless answers and the things that are left unsaid.
While the subject matter might seem to be a marked departure from Haigh’s previous efforts, there are still a number of similarities that run through his work. Like Weekend, it’s a two-hander and the internal workings of our characters are slowly revealed through intimate, layered conversations between our two leads. The films serve as interesting companion pieces, Haigh has now examined love in both its first rushes and its final throes.
It is shot with minimal flourishes and a sense of greyness pervades over things with nothing about the elderly couple’s lives feeling overtly adorned or calculated. Haigh will soon end his US adventure and return to London after a two hour special episode of Looking to tie up the loose plot strands of the recently cancelled TV show. Here’s hoping that television’s loss will be cinema’s gain.