45 YEARS (2015, Andrew Haigh)
Haigh’s follow up to the beautiful, delicate WEEKEND is another quiet, contemplative story about what love means and about how closeness between romantic partners may have nothing (or everything) to do with time. Plenty of subtle, intimate details serve as microcosms for how we deal with shattered foundations: sneaking a cigarette, reckoning with age, hearing a bump in the night, having breakfast, taking a walk, window shopping, etc. There’s so much to admire about how Haigh observes a couple existing, letting tiny gestures speak volumes.
Rampling is terrific, but if there’s one criticism about her it’s that her arsenal is a little small: her weapon of choice lately tends to be a thousand-yard stare, body still, face catatonic. She did it a lot in DEXTER too, and here — though she has plenty of amazing moments — she goes back to that well a few times too often. That’s still better than Tom Courtenay, though, whose lack of a three-dimensional character here may be due to the script more than the actor’s talent. The story is told from Kate’s perspective, so while we see Geoff allow drips of honesty to slip through the cracks of his blissful façade, we never really get inside his head.
Haigh’s directorial style isn’t flashy or assertive; he frames his actors well and lets the emotion do the heavy lifting. This serves the story, but at times the experience of watching the film is just one of pleasant patience leading up to a stinging conclusion. Then again, life — or a long marriage — may just be a series of unimpressive moments, trivial gestures, and shuffling feet, until it’s over with the force of a frightening earthquake.