45 Years Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
The older man sits at his breakfast table. He opens the mail as his wife settles in after walking the dog. One envelope holds a letter, written in German. The man, Geoff (Tom Courtenay, the British crime drama UNFORGOTTEN), has trouble remembering the basics, but continues. “I think it says they’ve found her…Her body, anyway.”
The body in question is that of Katya, a lover of George’s more than fifty years prior, who had suffered an accident and froze to death in the Swiss mountains. The news comes just one week before Geoff and his wife, Kate (Charlotte Rampling, Fred Schepisi’s THE EYE OF THE STORM), are to celebrate their forty-fifth wedding anniversary.
The next day, Kate visits the venue in which the party will be held and searches for a gift. When she comes home, she finds Geoff in a bit of a comatose-like daze and smelling of cigarettes. That night, he tells her that he was contacted because he was determined Katya’s next of kin, due to a charade in which they pretended to be married. We have only been observing this couple for less than twenty minutes and already we sense that the house has never felt so much quiet tension.
The moral predicament at the center of 45 YEARS is twofold: Should Kate feel jealous about the reemergence of Katya? And, What obligation does Geoff have to his former love, who has been dead for over five decades? Of course, Katya should hold no power; and yet she does, holding a grip over Geoff like perhaps Kate has not. As the story progresses and the anniversary date nears, the couple clearly shows tremendous signs of strain–Geoff grows distant in his attempts to cope with the news and Kate contemplating her true place in his life.
45 YEARS is an incredibly captivating film in which true decisions and emotions push the drama. We come to know this couple, Geoff and Kate, as developed humans with needs related to both loss and gain, love and fear. They are a real pair and we want them both to be happy, even if we have trouble determining what would make that so.
Charlotte Rampling, who earned her first ever Academy Award nomination here, is remarkable, turning in a performance that captures a mood that is somewhere between desperation and passion. Sharing so many scenes is the fantastic Tom Courtenay, who presents Geoff as a man with probably far too few years left and yet so many troubles to mend.
Guided by director Andrew Haigh (2011’s WEEKEND; he also directed numerous episodes of HBO’s LOOKING), adapting David Constantine’s short story “In Another Country”, 45 YEARS is a moving and often challenging work. There is so much at the surface and yet so much buried beneath, urging the viewer to sift through the undertones and discover more about characters both onscreen and unseen.
Despite all of the drama and tension that unfolds, 45 YEARS doesn’t go for theatrics. It remains quiet, straight and confident, sure that the attentive and patient viewer is rewarded through delicate storytelling and miraculously deft performances.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative”
Details are strong and colors are healthy throughout.
Audio: English 5.1 Surround. “This film features a fully digital soundtrack. The 5.1 surround audio for this release was mastered from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.”
The film has little to show off in this department, but the dialogue and atmosphere come through without any issues.
Audio commentary featuring director Andrew Haigh and producer Tristan Goligher:
The Making of 45 YEARS (36:42): Haigh, Goligher, stars Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling, editor Jonathan Alberts, and director of photography Lol Crawley serve as interviewees for this featurette, which goes into the production of 45 YEARS.
David Constantine (13:14): Author and poet Constantine, whose short story “In Another Country” was adapted into 45 YEARS, shares his thoughts on the film and its adaptation.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by critic Ella Taylor.