The Emotion Driven Picture: 45 Years

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45 Years (Andrew Haigh, 2015)

After seeing the high scores that 45 Years received near the end of the year, I was excited to spend part of my Saturday at the theater as it finally came into town.  Despite the acclaim, I managed to avoid almost any knowledge about the film, and what I had heard, a married man is informed that his original love who died tragically in an avalanche was found preserved  years later, was of little actual consequence to the purpose of the film.

Given a combination of that plot synopsis and my knowledge of Haigh’s previous film Weekend, I assumed that we would be getting a study of the man’s thought process as he came to grips with balancing his love for his wife with the love that he lost.  However, Haigh delivered a little twist on this premise.  Instead of watching Geoff determine how to handle this, we follow his wife Kate (the miraculous Charlotte Rampling) as she helplessly watches.

I found the decision to be brilliant.  I could sympathize with Kate’s struggles with her as she watches her husband become distant while she expends the energy to plan their wedding anniversary.  The helplessness of watching the one she loves in such obvious pain with no way to help.  What I found the most poignant in the performance and screenplay was the understanding of the pain that Kate was experiencing.  While Geoff is the one with a tangible reason to be upset, Kate feels just as much, but also struggles with the lack of concrete reason to complain.  Instead of leaning on her husband or friends for compassion, it eats away at her.  Eventually, we make it to the anniversary party.  After Geoff’s teary speech, we know that he still loves Kate, but the dance scene (to the well-chosen Smoke Gets in Your Eyes) leaves the remainder of the relationship with a level of ambiguity.

Charlotte Rampling was phenomenal, but I don’t think she has a shot at the Oscar.  The low-fi emotional character piece just doesn’t get the attention that it deserves by the Academy.  I’m a little surprised that it even got the nomination though obviously well deserved.  Maybe someday the emotion driven character drama will acknowledged on mass for it’s brilliance, but until then it’s up to women like me to sing it’s virtues.

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