45 Years

A beguiling film about love, commitment and heartbreak. In other words, a glimpse into a tiny corner of many marriages.

45 YearsKate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are one week away from celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. Loving but a bit remote as reflected by their age, their lives are interrupted by a letter to Geoff that will change their world.

Without saying more, Geoff is notified that his missing lover’s body has been found trapped in a glacier in Switzerland where she had disappeared over 50 years ago while they were hiking. He is overwhelmed, and his fixation soon destroys Kate’s attempt to be supportive.

And there you have Director Jay Roach’s 45 Years, a film dealing with memories that simply will not die. Ms. Rampling deserves her Oscar nomination, particularly as her stoicism slowly unravels as she discovers the meaning that this dead young girl has in her husband’s memory. She seems psychologically trapped in her own glacier as she loses her 45-year connection to her husband.

As noted, the film covers one week, and it functions as a stage play as it focuses on the strength and weaknesses of marriage and the meaning of past experiences. Yet it remains hard to understand how Mr. Courtenay was denied an Oscar nomination while his co-star was properly recognized.

Ms. Rampling, at the age of 70, has appeared in some tremendous films over the years. Think of the harrowing The Night Porter (1974), The Verdict (1982), Swimming Pool (2003) and a film that I treasure, Never Let Me Go (2010). As for Mr. Courtenay, who is 79, his list of accomplishments include King Rat and Dr. Zhivago (1965), The Dresser (1983), the overlooked The Golden Compass (2007) and Quartet (2012).

Like The Revenant, the film’s dialog is at times sparse, yet the scenes are enchanting as you watch Ms. Rampling roam the captivating British countryside around her house with her dog. Importantly, watch for the scene where our troubled couple dance to the old classic Stagger Lee after dinner as they try to remember how to have sex. On top of that, the threatened anniversary party centers around an incredible speech given by Mr. Courtenay, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it will bring tears to your eyes.

But will Kate cry?