45 Years

45 Years


Director: Andrew Haigh
Writers: David Constantine (short story ‘In Another Country’) Andrew Haigh adaptation
1 hour, 35 minutes, December, 2015

Communication surfaces as a centerpiece for most couples in therapy.  Married people often direct more effort towards communicating with children, friends and colleagues and less effort towards engaged discussions with their spouse.

45 Years was recently released on demand and DVD and focuses primarily on how the stories we tell and the stories we leave out can define a marriage.

When Director Andrew Haigh’s critically acclaimed film 45 Years begins, married Kate  (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) Mercer appear to be living a quiet and satisfying retirement.  Then, in an early scene set in their cozy kitchen, Geoff opens a letter indicating that the body of his long-deceased girlfriend, Katya, has finally been recovered.  Geoff and Katya were hiking glaciers together in the Swiss Alps when she slipped and disappeared.  Now global warming has caused the glaciers to melt and her body has resurfaced after more than fifty years.

In shock as he reads the letter, Geoff refers to his lost lover as “my Katya.”  The love and longing in his voice seems to grab Kate by the throat.

As this soft, stunning story unfolds, the film functions as a provocative study in marital communication.   Kate and Geoff’s crises illuminates the power of the stories couples fail to share, and how the legacies of omitted details can shape and undercut a marriage.  The Mercers’ love and companionship is laced with an unspoken understanding that certain chapters of their lives remain private, compartmentalized and unshared.  While this strategy has worked for forty five years, the news that Katya’s frozen body has left her perfectly preserved acts as a metaphor expressing the power of the past to shape and animate the present.

One of the most complicated dimensions of marriage is how challenging it can feel to be open, honest and real with one’s spouse.  45 Years illuminates this tension while also paying tribute to their companionship and their love.

Couples wishing to enhance communication and increase their shared dialogues could find it useful to watch this film together and then discuss it with engaged and animated conversation.

Elisabeth LaMotte

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