45 Years

Posted by Michael Parsons on January 21, 2016 in / No Comments


Charlotte Rampling might be the ballsiest actress of her generation. Many will recall her from such noteworthy films as “Stardust Memories” and “The Verdict”, others for controversial fare like “Angel Heart”, the risqué French flick “Swimming Pool”, and Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia”. For me, her most telling performance was in “Basic Instinct 2”, because it suggests that no matter how refined, the dame really doesn’t give a shit. For her role in Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years”, Rampling definitely earned her Oscar nomination. Originally designed as a short story by writer David Constantine, the film follows Kate and Geoff Mercer (Rampling and “Quartet” star Tom Courtenay), a couple who experience a major breach of trust during the twilight of their marriage. Haigh’s treatment simply doesn’t fulfill the stretch to a feature-length production, and it’s on Rampling to make up the difference. Just before a party for 45-years-postertheir 45th wedding anniversary, Geoff receives news that the body of his ex-girlfriend, who died in a freak accident some five years before he met Kate, has turned up perfectly preserved within the Alpine fissure that consumed her. Geoff mourns as if it had happened yesterday, secretly longing for his lost love, while Kate suddenly feels like she’s been playing second fiddle for nearly half a century. Things grow quietly tense as the festivities draw near, and it becomes apparent that the celebration is going to be unilateral. The psychology of such an anomaly provides much for discussion, and for Rampling’s nuanced and seriously affecting performance. But “45 Years” is not a particularly entertaining film. It is more of a challenge, as a sense of betrayal looms, a pervasive melancholy persists, and finally disgust emerges—during which time the movie’s inertia threatens to drag us into the doldrums. It’s all very subtle, but Rampling’s eyes tell us a lot.  Do we ever really know another person? A frightening query. Haigh’s appreciation of mood and environment shows a lot of discipline, but is often so reserved that these questions get lost in the atmosphere.  A wise man recently told me that behavior never lies, and this director seems intent on applying that theory to the shifting dynamic of his principal characters, who are masking their real feelings for much of the film. Courtenay is perfectly convincing as  the husband,  assuming you buy into  the premise of his mental transgression—a lot of pensive moments follow. And that’s why Rampling deserves her nomination, because she’s absolutely fascinating to watch, even when the movie is virtually stagnant.

Opens in Washington DC Friday, January 22nd.

— M. Parsons

Posted in

Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *