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That's Amour

Agatha A. Nitecka

45 Years (2015)

After "Weekend" cast a nonjudgmental eye over the couplings of people savoring their early decades on Earth, "45 Years" looks with equal tolerance at a married couple hovering around their seventh — in the process confirming Andrew Haigh as one of current British cinema's rarely-spotted authentic humanists. With the domestic industry's choices too often amounting to use of the heritage card, indulgence in histrionic aggro or a swing the other way into micromanaged oxygen starvation, Mr. Haigh once again proves to be one of those searching for a fourth way.

"45 Years" involves a marriage with a hidden fault line. While Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate (Charlotte Rampling) prepare for their sapphire wedding anniversary in the rural peace of the Norfolk Broads, an air-mail letter to Geoff from the Alps resurrects a dormant historical crisis — one on which a 50-year fuse has finally finished burning.

The troubling history belongs to Geoff, but the film's subsequent story belongs more to Kate. Mr. Haigh's adaptation of a David Constantine short story favors quiet contemplation of Ms. Rampling's compassionate face, and hardly a door is slammed is anger; instead Kate's silences speak for her, especially the one following a long-delayed rummage through the loft and a discovery of her own — a silence broken by pretty much the only wail of anguish she allows herself.

The mutual ties between the couple are complicated, affectionately caustic and largely unspoken — in other words, entirely realistic. But Mr. Haigh is not very interested in a kitchen-sink drama, no matter how posh the kitchen. Class, to name one relevant subtlety, is up front without the need for a fanfare: Geoff has authentic leftist credentials and dismay for former comrades with villas on the Algarve, while Ms. Rampling's natural credentials for poise and bearing indicate something of Kate's path through life without her saying a word. But that letter isn't going to let her keep a state of grace. The film lays the pair's weaknesses out for inspection without demeaning them one inch, and Mr. Haigh is too good at this to allow Kate the luxury of returning back to where she started.


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