Smoke gets in your eyes

This is my review of 45 Years [DVD] [2015].

Kate Mercer, a self-controlled retired headmistress married to the older and frailer former engineering manager Geoff, combines walks with her dog through the misty Norfolk Broads countryside with preparations for the couple’s forty-fifth wedding anniversary party. A few days before the event, Geoff is understandably shaken to receive a formal letter in German notifying him of the discovery in an Alpine glacier of the perfectly preserved body of Katya, his girlfriend of half a century ago, who fell to her death during their trek through the Alps from Switzerland to Italy. Naturally, vivid memories return from the distant past, prompting him to exclaim aloud over the fact that Katya will be preserved exactly as she was, in contrast to how he has changed.

Kate’s equally strong if largely repressed emotions must surely be more than simple jealousy. Is she distressed by what she suspects or unearths about the true nature of Geoff’s relationship with Katya, or is it that he has misled her, if not exactly lied, and caused her to question how well she really knows him? Does the shock of the event expose long-denied disappointments in the marriage they are about to celebrate? The drama is strengthened by the fact that what is probably the key reason for Kate’s distress is revealed in such a subtle and unspoken way. The understated ambiguous ending also strikes the right note.

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are excellent in the leading roles, the filming very naturalistic, creating a strong sense of place, with ordinary members of the public rather than extras in a busy Norwich street scene. Yet as the closing credits rolled I felt a slight sense of disappointment after the glowing critical praise. Perhaps the plot was a little too slight, the pace a little too slow to pad it out to 93 minutes. On reflection, I realised that in addition to the main plot so much about getting older is implied, such as on one hand the sudden crushing realisation of how life might have been different, or one might have made different choices, as opposed to the more positive recall of a past interest or talent which can be resumed, although probably not to the same standard. All this is over and above the

usual frustrations over one’s physical decline or the sense that “everything is going to pot” at one’s former workplace.

In the recent crop of “Marigold Hotel”- type dramas clearly designed to draw grey power audiences, this stands out in a class of its own, although I do not know what younger viewers will make of it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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