With nary a critical word to be found amongst the fawners in the film
critics' pantheon, 45 Years has gone on to receive a surfeit of
undeserved approbation in such places as Metacritic, with an
unbelievable "metascore" of 94. My first reaction to this onslaught of
film critic stupidity was simply to ask, "How can this be?"
45 Years may be infected with a simple case of being "too British." Now
don't get me wrongI love quite a number of British films, which often
prove superior to their American counterparts. But when a film ends up
being "too British," it often suffers from glacial pacing and a rather
dry demeanor which 45 Years obviously suffers from throughout.
But there are plenty of films featuring lugubrious plots with humorless
characters that still remain compelling. What's needed of course is a
plot that goes somewhere, and characters that manage to avoid being
pejoratively labeled as "sad sacks." Unfortunately, 45 Years avoids
none of this and more!
It's all supposed to be about some kind of marital crisis that befalls
an aging, childless couple by the name of Kate and Geoff Mercer who
live in the flatlands of Norfolk, in eastern England. Kate and Geoff's
idyllic existence is suddenly shattered when Geoff receives a letter
that his ex-girlfriend Katya's body, lost in an Alpine hiking accident
50 years earlier, has been suddenly found perfectly preserved inside a
glacier in the Swiss Alps.
Andrew Haigh, the writer-director here, apparently was quite enamored
with this gimmick of an inciting incident which he conscripted from a
short story entitled Another Country. Haigh's idea is to show how
Kate's perspective on the marriage changes after new information comes
to light regarding Geoff's relationship with the ex-girlfriend.
Geoff remains what he's been all along: a curmudgeon. He can't
understand why Kate should be upset over a relationship he was involved
in years ago. The revelation that Katya took his surname bothers Kate
but not Geoff, who merely takes to smoking cigarettes to assuage the
anxiety he's experiencing over Kate's growing dissatisfaction with him.
Oh yes, he's a bit of a lefty too as it's revealed that he once called
Kate's friend a "fascist," during a political discussion that got out
As for Kate, one wonders why she should be upset over something that
happened fifty years earlier. It's mainly the principle of Geoff not
being honest with her. But she appears to throw her principles out the
window when she surreptitiously and underhandedly goes up to the attic
and views some old slides of Katya, taken by Geoff right before the
accident. There, (simmering with jealousy), she spies a close-up
picture of Katya, visibly pregnant.
While all this is going on, the couple is getting ready for their 45th
wedding anniversary. Kate simply has to put on a good face while the
couple is finally heralded by all their friends at the actual banquet.
Kate's "new perspective" on her marriage is the "big" revelation that
we're supposed to get excited about.
The critics use big words to describe what is really a simple change in
circumstances: "devastating truth," a "sensitive and devastating
portrait of a long, happy marriage in sudden crisis," "quietly moving
and deceptively tragic," a story "about whether secrets can be
survived," "two people haunted by a specter from another lifetime,"
"deep reserves of inner torment." You get the picture!
Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay can do little with the material
foisted upon them and the viewer only perks up when one or another
nostalgic tune from the 60s pops up intermittently on the film's
In the end, the critics would like you to believe that 45 Years
represents the second coming of Ingmar Bergman. Nothing could be
further than the truth. If your protagonists are deadly dull to begin
with, and your inciting incident leads to the feeblest of epiphanies,
then please explain to me what the critics' brouhaha is all about.