Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The 50 best films of 2015 / 45 years / No. 2

The 50 besfilm

of 2015 

in thUS  

No 2 

45 Years

Peter Bradshaw
Thursday 17 December 2015

One of the enormous and incidental pleasures of Andrew Haigh’s superlative drama 45 Years is the way it presents us with two superb actors absorbed in the kind of roles and script that don’t come along too often. Older actors usually get to play supporting parts which are sketchily or condescendingly conceived, in movies which are of varying quality, to say the least. This movie was different. It put Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay centre stage and gave them the career-opportunity of a lifetime. They took it.

Charlotte Rampling
45 Years

Rampling got the chance to play a role that had nothing to with menacing or decadent sensuality; Courtenay played someone who wasn’t diffident or wet. They are both quietly electrifying. They are Kate and Geoff Mercer, a retired childless couple living in the charming if somewhat featureless Norfolk landscape, in a village just outside Norwich. Kate is a former headteacher with a natural calm air of authority which still commands respect thereabouts and Geoff used to be manager at a local engineering company: he is seems of a lower social class and lacks her effortless poise and self-control.

Tom Courtnenay and Charlotte Rampling
45 Years

In fact, he can still get a bit lairy with a drink inside him. This very mismatch has something romantic about it, especially as they are preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. Yet that faintly arbitrary number — 45 — is due to the fact that an earlier party had been cancelled, and something appears to be subtly wrong. The uneasy calm of their relationship is destroyed when Geoff gets a letter out of the blue saying that the body of his old girlfriend, who was killed in a walking holiday in Switzerland, has now been discovered in the ice and snow, perfectly preserved. The past comes rushing back to overwhelm the present.
Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling
45 Years

Piece by piece, brick by brick, the edifice of their relationship begins to collapse — and so do their lives and their sense of themselves. The film terrifyingly shows how as time goes by, we can build our identities on a lie, or at least on a delusion, and these identities become teeteringly unsafe towers liable to collapse if they are suddenly examined or challenged too closely. Perhaps there is something dangerous in the very act of an anniversary party itself:  the sudden, unwonted focus on the marriage — why did we get married, anyway? — and the appearance of dozens of old friends and faces with disturbing associations with the past. 

At the end, Kate appears to be in torment, but Haigh’s final, disquieting shot suggests that, in Shakespeare’s phrase, there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. Look around you — at Kate and Geoff’s anniversary party, or in the office, or at home, or in the street. Everyone looks happy, or calm at any rate. But perhaps every single one of these faces is concealing a terrible, painful secret, like Kate and Geoff. 45 Years is a fiercely disturbing film.


The best 50 films of 2015 in the US
01. Son of Saul

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