a still from the film
Britain has given the world so many fabulous actors, but ranking high among that illustrious crowd is Charlotte Rampling.
And in 45 Years, a quiet, reserved film by Andrew Haigh, the Best Actress Oscar nominee gives the performance of a lifetime by managing to convert both vulnerability and the need to constantly show a strong front.
The film itself is an elegant portrait of a long-lived marriage that is revealed by degrees to be based on a lie. It's incredibly realistic in its portrayal of its metaphorical ghost in the attic.
A week before Kate (Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are due to celebrate their 45th anniversary, Geoff gets news that his first love, who disappeared while walking in the Alps 50 years ago, has been discovered, perfectly preserved. Cue late night trips to the loft to paw over dog-eared photographs of his former lover. Kate is left down below feeling a cold draft.
Rampling and Courtenay essentially give a single, symbiotic performance. Haigh also emphasizes their interconnectedness by filming conversation scenes in which the camera focuses not on the speaker, but the listener.
Which is why in essence, 45 Years has three main characters: Kate, Geoff and their marriage.
Still, this is ultimately Kate's story, and Rampling is remarkable in the amount of meaning she can communicate by slightly altering her level of attention in Kate's thoughtful, middle-distance gaze. With the furrow of an eyebrow, a blink of an eye or a sudden refocusing on an object before her, we understand that Kate, in a single moment, has experienced the emotional equivalent of time travel.
The film's last shot, and the look on Kate's face, is so perfect it's scary.
45 Years is a hard film to watch, but unlike other awards season favourites like The Revenant or Room, it's not because of shock factor or gruesome violence.
Rather, Haigh has crafted a film that is uncomfortably realistic. You feel as though you're watching Kate and Geoff's marriage unravel through a peephole.