Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Happy Anniversary...or Not

On a quiet Monday morning in their home nestled in the quaint English countryside, we meet Kate and Geoff Mercer as they plan their 45th anniversary party for the end of the week.  Childless, they have just each other and are looking to celebrate their union after have to cancel their 40th anniversary party due to Geoff's bypass surgery.   

And then the postman brings Geoff a letter.   And that very simple and seemingly uneventful plot line gets enormously complicated.   Geoff learns that his former fiancee, Katya, has been found dead.   Frozen under an icy glacier somewhere in the Swiss Alps and that's one gruesome way to go.   This news unlocks a flood of memories for Geoff.   And a hornet's nest of emotions for Kate who did not even know of Katya's existence in her husband's life.

"45 Years" by director Andrew Haigh is one of those quiet movies that actually has an underlying scream.  Nothing happens and yet a lot happens.   Kate notices that Geoff is still obsessed with Katya.   He sneaks up to the attic at night to run old slides of them together.   And, suddenly, Kate can smell a strange perfume in the house.   

As Geoff's obsession grows, so does Kate's.  And you rightfully expect an explosion at the anniversary party.

But, indeed, everything that "45 Years" does is in mannered emotions and feelings.  You can feel the pain of the characters but it doesn't hit you over the head with anger.   The ordeal is all very civilized, even if the characters are falling apart right before your eyes.

Charlotte Rampling as Kate has been nominated for an Oscar and rightfully so. Like Jennifer Lawrence's work in "Joy," the film succeeds completely because she has carried in on her back.   Except, in "45 Years," you can't overlook the wonderful portrayal of Geoff by legendary British actor Tom Courtenay.   He was unfortunately overlooked by the Academy and definitely lends to the film's power.

You live through this somewhat harrowing week with these characters not knowing exactly what will happen at that anniversary party.   And, just like in real life, the ending is left a bit ajar.  You think you know what happens next.   But you may not.

Like the title of today's piece, is it a happy anniversary?  Or not?  The question is left dangling at the end and you think about it on your way home.  When a film makes you think about it days later, you know it's a darn good one.

LEN'S RATING:  Three-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Pot roast and vegetables at the home of good friends Jill and Larry.

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