Thursday, June 23, 2016

Short Take: 45 Years

Charlotte Rampling has a scene in 45 Years that is as good as film acting gets. Rampling's character dances with her husband (Tom Courtenay) at their 45th anniversary party. The past week has given them perhaps the roughest patch their marriage has known, but they've resolved to put it behind them and start fresh. The husband has happily done so. It's obvious he is enjoying the party, the music, and the dance, and is eager to share his joy with her. But one can tell by her movements that she's not giving over to either the music or to him. As the dance goes on, one can see her face go from distraction to sadness to a barely contained anguish. Not a word is spoken. She's surrounded by loved ones celebrating her marriage, but she's clearly never felt so alone. It's a powerful "we shall never again be as we were" moment, and its eloquence comes from Rampling's expressive gravitas. One wishes the rest of the film had been half as compelling. Overall, it is a dreary piece of lit-fic cinema: aggressively mundane, sluggishly paced, and a showcase for homely epiphanies. The story begins a week before the couple's anniversary. The husband receives new word about an old girlfriend who died fifty years earlier. He becomes completely preoccupied with her, and the wife discovers that he has built their marriage around his grief over her death. His silent devotion to his lost love is why they've never had children, or even have photographs from their time over the years. The film is skillfully written, handsomely produced, and very well acted, but apart from the one scene, it feels completely inert. Director Andrew Haigh is credited with the screenplay, which is based on the prose story "In Another Country," by David Constantine. The cinematography, by Lol Crawley, makes attractive use of the Norfolk, England locations.

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