Wednesday, 27 January 2016

45 Years

On the 8th of January this year, the BAFTA nominations were announced. As usual, film enthusiasts around the country were quick to debate those who were chosen and express their anger at those who were snubbed. This year, it seems the majority of people were particularly shocked and disgusted by the omission of 45 Years’ Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling in the acting categories, while the film itself was only nominated in the Outstanding British Film category. With the film earning more awards and nominations in other areas – including the Oscars - to this day, is 45 Years deserving of this praise? Or was it right of BAFTA to snub it so savagely?

Directed by Andrew Haigh and based on David Constantine’s short story In Another Country, 45 Years, out now on Blu-Ray and DVD, is an unusual film in that nothing really happens in the conventional sense – we follow Kate Mercer (Rampling) and her husband Geoff (Courtenay) over a week as they prepare for their 45th anniversary party. But when shattering news arrives from the Swiss authorities – Geoff’s ex-girlfriend Katya who he lost in an Alpine crevasse 50 years earlier had been discovered, her body perfectly preserved – a wedge is driven between the old couple as Geoff begins thinking a little too much about what could’ve been if he had never lost ‘his’ Katya. There are no big set-pieces, no action, not a lot of music – 45 Years is an extraordinarily slow, quiet and understated study of marriage. This put a lot of people off. But if you go in knowing what to expect, you will find a lot to like.

Firstly, the two performances are phenomenal. A lot has been said about Rampling and yes, she is excellent. She portrays an increasing sadness, confusion and embarrassment that many actresses couldn’t and is extremely deserving of the accolades she has received, including an Oscar nomination in the Best Actress category. But it is Courtenay who steals the film and has had nowhere near enough credit for his performance as Geoff. His growing obsession and distraction throughout the film is impeccably performed and, for me, truly made the film work. But I suppose this is a film of two halves, and one character simply wouldn’t work without the other. They’re both incredible. I’d just like to see Courtenay pick up a few more awards and nominations for his work, I mean what makes Rampling deserving of an Oscar nod and not him? Grrrr. Anyway, the pair have an amazing chemistry that makes the characters’ 45 years together stunningly believable. The natural performances make the film almost feel like a documentary.

The film is a visual feast too, although the beauty of the film’s look comes from a certain relatable mundanity of life. Long, bleak shots of the rural countryside of England and the naturally lit interior of Kate and Geoff’s messy home make for a very real experience. And, with the quiet dialogue and (on the surface) uneventful screenplay, this adds to the film’s deceivingly simple feel. But as I said, this did put a lot of people off and I can’t stress enough that 45 Years is not one for action-lovers or mainstream cinema escapists. No, 45 Years is cinema as an art form. It’s a thinking persons’ film.

45 Years is many things. But for me, it was a thought-provoking experience. It asked a lot of deep questions about love, and how long it can truly last. The dilemmas of the characters are left open in a sense – and you can give the story your own ending, based on how you would act. It’s almost a mirror onto its audience, asking you to assess your love life and any secrets you may have. Two incredible performances give this film the opportunity to excel and excel it does. 45 Years is one of the finest British films in years, and certainly is deserving of the hype. Bravo, to all concerned. Don’t let BAFTA’s snubs get you down, they’re a bunch of bloody idiots!

45 Years is deserving of 45 stars, but for now I’ll just settle for 5/5.


Sam Love

45 Years at CeX

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