Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James
Directed by: Andrew Haigh (“Weekend”)
Written by: Andrew Haigh (“Weekend”)

A long and stable marriage is tested when ghosts of the past reemerge decades later in the delicate drama “45 Years.” With standout performances by lead actors Charlotte Rampling, nominated for an Oscar this year for her role, and Tom Courtenay, the intimate narrative is a highly daunting one for anyone who might consider themselves hopeless romantics. In real life, even the most durable relationships are not failsafe.

In “45 Years,” Rampling and Courtenay star as Kate and Geoff Mercer, a husband and wife on the verge of celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary with a grand reception. Days before the party, however, Geoff receives a letter informing him that the body of the first woman he ever loved, Katya, has been discovered frozen in the Swiss Alps. Fifty years prior, Geoff was with her when she fell into a deep crevasse of the mountains never to be found. Suppressed feelings rise to the surface as Geoff reminisces about his lost love (he calls her “My Katya”) while Kate looks on with equal concern and displeasure.

What have the last 45 years really meant for the couple if Geoff’s heart truly belonged to someone else this entire time? It’s a question Rampling’s Kate confronts as she witness her marriage slowly dissolve right before her anguished eyes. In the most subtle ways, Rampling delivers a sense of dread and desperation knowing that things between her and her husband will never be the same. It’s through this reflection and realization where “45 Years” becomes the most profound and, very often, emotionally agonizing to watch.

Directed by Andrew Haigh (“Weekend”), “45 Years” is a master class in expression and gesture presented by Rampling with impressive conviction. As we watch her gaze at the man she thought she always knew, an incredible sadness builds throughout the film that becomes almost suffocating. It’s a frightening thought to look into the eyes of someone you love and find a stranger staring back. In “45 Years,” every reaction is more heartbreaking than the last.

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