Blu-Ray Review – 45 Years
The Criterion Collection, with their continually exceptional taste in movies to issue on Blu-Ray, has recently released the critically acclaimed 2015 drama 45 Years. Starring Charlotte Rampling in an Academy Award nominated role and Tom Courtenay as her addled longtime husband, the film is a subtly powerful story about what it means to spend a lifetime with someone.
When I reviewed the movie when it came out theatrically I opened with this:
“If you are into quiet, subtle, brilliant film acting, you will be into the new film 45 Years. Thoughtful adult cinema about characters over a certain age is increasingly rare anymore. And especially allowing actors in their advanced years star in a film while giving them enough room to fully explore their relationship is even more so. Yet director Andrew Haigh has given us a nuanced slice of a well-worn advanced marriage. Charlotte Rampling stars as Kate Mercer. She’s been married to Geoff (Tom Courtenay) for decades.
The film takes place over the week leading up to their 45th anniversary celebration. They have settled into a comfortable retired life in the country with walking the dog daily and tending to household chores. Early in the week, Geoff receives a letter from the authorities in Germany. They have found the remains of his girlfriend from 50 years previous who had died in a hiking accident while they were young. This incident is part of the couple’s shared history, but the recovery of these remains acts like a small pebble dropped into their lives that sends ripples throughout their life together.”
This film being added to Criterion brings to mind other members of their illustrious collection. Revisiting 45 Years in this light shows how this could be spiritual cousin to some of Ingmar Bergman‘s work. His smaller chamber pieces like Cries & Whispers or Through a Glass Darkly which both involve a small cast of characters dealing with familial issues in a rustic house in the countryside come to mind. Bergman is much more centered on religious issues and mental illness, but the setting in 45 Years of this couple tending to their cottage while mining long buried issues from the past feels similar.
Does it even need to be said at this point that Criterion will feature the best film transfer possible? This is a 2K transfer supervised by the director and it looks as good as it ever will on home video. This movie features a lot of natural lighting, and a lot of the inner life of these characters occurs in simple facial expressions. So a pristine image helps with the subtleties of the story.
Criterion has a real sense of how to put together a supplemental package. They filmed a new making of documentary in 2016 with interviews with Rampling, Courtenay, Director Andrew Haigh, and the cinematographer Lol Crawley. At just over 30 minutes it’s the right amount of behind the scenes talking to keep it engaging. And while the acting in this movie is top notch, what is relayed here about how to shoot a movie like this puts some emphasis on the low key visual storytelling as well. Bringing up touches like Rampling’s improv scene of playing the piano or how they use the breeze from the attic to attract her character to make a discovery goes to show how much thought goes into even a small movie like this.
There is also a 10 minute interview with David Constatine, the writer of the short story upon which the script was based. He very much seems to be on board with the film’s interpretation of his work. He points out how his story was much more evenly divided between the two characters while the film is mostly her story. But the changes are enlightening.
The Director and Producer both participate in the commentary track. Conversational and fun, they really highlight the visual touches throughout the film. Again, the focus on other aspects outside of Rampling’s deservedly lauded performance helps to round out appreciation of the film.
The jacket features an essay by Film Critic Ella Taylor. It works as a thoughtful treatise on the film.
45 Years is a terrific movie shown here in a terrific presentation. It came up recently with the remake of Going In Style (which I generally liked by the way) that most stories for and about Senior Citizens are uncomplicated. Usually older people are shown as caricatures or doddering fools without much depth. Both that audience and those characters deserve better. This film is a glowing example of how issues for that age group can be universally compelling.