Directed by Andrew Haigh
We hear fragments of The Platter’s ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ throughout 45 Years, a love song which is at turns nostalgic and regretful in the context of Andrew Haigh’s ostensibly modest relationship film. 45 Years is an acting two-hander which takes place in small rooms surrounded by empty, tranquil landscapes. The writer/director charts five days in a four-and-a-half decade marriage, using the interference of a letter on the eve of the couple’s wedding anniversary to potentially alter the history that they have shared together.
The stillness and visual serenity of each frame belies the deep emotional turmoil drudged up by the letter’s information. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay meld as one on screen, reflecting off each other with minute reactions and gestures which suggest an entire life of developed understanding. As this letter lingers over them more and more, however (the contents of which I won’t spoil), their body language becomes increasingly alien to one another, and the realisation that they are two separate beings rather than a complete whole is driven home in a mesmerically devastating final scene.
Haigh is smart enough to know that what goes unsaid is more important than what is said. The truth can sometimes be unspeakable, but when it is expressed – even in song – a person’s reaction can tell you many things, because “when your heart’s on fire, you must realize, smoke gets in your eyes.”
Words by Sebastian Moore