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Times of India
A married and elderly couple - Kate Mercer (Rampling) and Geoff Mercer (Courtenay) - live a comfortably retired life in the British countryside. They are also still very much in love with each other. One day though, Geoff receives a letter informing him that the remains of his first sweetheart have been found after many, many years. Apart from being shaken by this news, it also threatens the foundation of their marriage, whose validity is questioned.
Love exists in many hues and shades and 45 Years examines a facet of this feeling that we don't often get to see onscreen. It also analyses the dynamics of a relationship - from physical to emotional - that exist between people who have spent the better part of their lifetimes together. If two people have been together for so long, can their relationship still be shaken by a ghost from the past? And if so, wouldn't it be a terrible feeling for a person to realize that their husband or wife has never really stopped loving someone - even if that someone is long dead?
The characters of the lead pair are also carefully fleshed out. Geoff is the more easygoing of the two, but not in a joyous way. He does seem rather vacant at times, perhaps the result of his age. Kate is the wired one, more alert and active. As the narrative unfolds, we get to see how Geoff becomes more withdrawn and introspective. No doubt about the letter he received that triggered off a torrent of memories. Kate becomes more concerned and even anguished as she uncovers more and more about Geoff's first love. To her, these well-kept secrets (especially when Geoff refers to the lady as 'My Katya') are a form of betrayal, that too before their 45th anniversary.
The direction and screenplay (intertitles are used) is understated, but younger viewers might find themselves stifling a yawn or two at times. The slow pace however, can make 45 Years' somewhat brisk run-time seem much longer. On the other hand, the film is perfect for the elderly to see, be intrigued by and savor.
The film was screened in the main competition section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival where Charlotte Rampling won the Silver Bear for Best Actress and Tom Courtenay won the Silver Bear for Best Actor.
Tom, who is the President of the Hull City Official Supporters' Club, is seen sipping tea from a Hull City AFC mug in several scenes.
This is the second film Tom and Charlotte have featured together in. Their first was ‘Night Train to Lesbon’ in 2014.
In the film, the seasons seem to be changing by the day; from winter on Monday to early spring on Wednesday to winter again on Saturday.
The film takes place across six days, marked by intertitles.
Five years after retirees Kate and Geoff Mercer had to cancel their 40th wedding anniversary because of his heart bypass surgery, the comfortably-off, childless, Norfolk couple are now planning to celebrate their 45th anniversary with dozens of friends at the Assembly House in Norwich.
A week before the party, Geoff receives a letter from Switzerland telling him that the body of Katya, his lover in the early 1960s, has become visible in a melting glacier where she fell into a crevasse on their hike with a German guide over five decades ago. Memories rush back to him and he realizes he has forgotten much of what little German he used to know and that he would need a dictionary to fully understand all that the letter says.
Kate has known about Katya since the time Geoff and Kate met later in the 1960s and is initially unconcerned by Geoff's controlled disquiet. "I can hardly be cross about something that happened before we even existed..." she says, but after a pause adds "Still...".
The next day Kate helps Geoff find his old German-English dictionary. Soon, Geoff's conduct begins to show that there is more on his mind than he says. Among other things, he tries to keep from Kate that he is beginning to taking steps to fly to Switzerland without her to see Katya's body, which he imagines preserved in the now-transparent ice, still looking youthful.
Prodded by Kate, Geoff talks about his relationship with Katya and thoughts evoked by the discovery of her body. He tells Kate that he and Katya had pretended to be married in order to be able to share a room in the more puritanical early 1960s. Because of this, the Swiss authorities consider him to be Katya's next of kin. Kate is troubled by the revelation.
As the days pass and preparations for the party continue, Geoff continues to be moody and takes up smoking, which both had given up in the past. One night, Geoff climbs into the attic to look at his memorabilia of Katya and only reluctantly shows Kate a picture of Katya when she insists. Kate starts to ponder all of her life with Geoff, even begins "to smell Katya's perfume" in every room.
While Geoff is attending a reunion luncheon at the plant from which he retired, Kate, neglecting their dog's jittery barking at the ladder, climbs up into the attic to see what things her husband may be keeping there. She finds Geoff's scrapbook filled with memorabilia from his life with Katya, including pressed flowers from their last hike. And then she finds a carousel slide projector, loaded with images of Switzerland and Katya, next to a makeshift screen to view them. One slide shows Katya with her hand on top of her protruding abdomen, indicating Katya was pregnant at the time of her death.
Kate takes up smoking again, too, and confronts Geoff about his feelings for Katya without revealing what she saw in the attic. Geoff promises that their marriage will "start again," which he begins by bringing her tea to bed and making breakfast for her the next morning.
They attend their anniversary party in the historical Grand Hall. Kate is constrained, distracted, and remains impassive during Geoff's speech in which he professes his love for Kate, while saying "the choices we make in our youth are most important" and bringing himself to tears, just as Kate's friend Lena has predicted men always do at weddings and anniversaries. Geoff and Kate dance, but she moves rigidly in his embrace. As the dance ends, Geoff raises their hands together in the air. Kate yanks her arm down after a few seconds, and the final close-up isolates her amid the crush of people on the dance floor and a multitude of emotions play across her face.
The Oscar-nominated Hollywood '45 Years' has hit the theatres and the film is receiving a positive response from the audience and critics alike. Have a look at what the Twitteratti has to say about the movie.
This one is a wonderful movie with a very relatable story of a sort. It became for me a bit distracting at a moment or two, like I was willing to take a break to check phone and all but in the later half as I emerged into the story, its beautiful.