“45 Years” (2015). Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells, David Sibley, Sam Alexander. Director: Andrew Haigh. Screenplay: Andrew Haigh. Story: David Constantine, In Another Country. Web site. Trailer.
What does it mean to love someone? Can that love stand the test of time? And can it withstand some potentially devastating news rooted in the past that only now makes its presence felt? Those are among the questions addressed in the taut new romantic drama, “45 Years.”
A week before Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling) and her husband, Geoff (Tom Courtenay), are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary at a grand party in their honor, they receive a letter revealing some upsetting news about one of Geoff’s former loves, a woman he knew before he married Kate. This news truly troubles Geoff, reminding him of a devastating loss from long ago. But the effect of this development is compounded when it becomes apparent just how much this decades-old tragedy has impacted Geoff throughout the years, particularly when it comes to the nature of his relationship with Kate, both now and throughout the course of their marriage.
The news severely depresses Geoff, prompting him to spend much of his time brooding. He proceeds to isolate himself, curtailing much of his communication with others, including Kate. He loses interest in the activities that have long given him pleasure and even partakes in some unhealthy forms of behavior, such as resuming smoking, a habit that once jeopardized his health and led to the cancellation of his 40th anniversary celebration five years earlier. He quickly spirals downward into a depression from which escape looks increasingly doubtful.
Kate, meanwhile, attempts to offer her husband comfort in the wake of this revelation. However, as events unfold, she begins to discover she’s unable to offer the consolation he needs. In large part, this is due to a lack of understanding of Geoff’s relationship with his former love, a romance about which she knows precious little. So, with the party looming, in an attempt to revive her husband’s spirits, Kate begins investigating Geoff’s relationship with this mystery woman from the past. What Kate finds, though, causes great anguish – for her.
In essence, Kate begins quietly asking herself – and then Geoff – some hard questions: Was their marriage one genuinely based on love? Or was it something Geoff pursued to pave over his grief at the loss of his former love? And what has it all meant for them as the years have gone by? The answers to these questions may be more complicated than what appears at first glance, so much so that it might even prompt each partner to wonder exactly what the last 45 years have been all about – and why they have unfolded as they have. That, of course, has implications for the present and the future – and whether there will be even one more year, let alone another 45.
Given the circumstances involved in a story like this, it’s quite natural for someone to ask, “What am I to make of my relationship? Is it what I’ve always thought it was? Has it changed in light of the developments that have recently surfaced? Or was it never what I thought it meant, an illusion that I’ve allowed to deceive me all these years?” In essence, no matter what it ultimately is, it all comes down to one’s beliefs, the cornerstone of the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience. And, considering what transpires between Kate and Geoff, there are plenty of beliefs at work spanning a wide range of viewpoints, some contradicting one another and all of them occurring simultaneously.
While both partners must wrestle with this idea, Kate arguably bears the greater burden here. She’s left to sort out a plethora of beliefs about the nature of her marriage, both in its present state and with regard to its past, considerations that will invariably affect its future. She must determine whether Geoff has leveled with her over the past 45 years when it comes to his love for her and the choices they’ve made with how their relationship has unfolded. She must ask herself if she’s perceived matters accurately or if she’s bought into a deception, one that Geoff himself may not have recognized either.
In making such an assessment, Kate has to make a critical choice about how she sees things. And that, as conscious creators know, comes down to her beliefs. Will she allow herself to believe that her marriage was everything she thought it was? Or will she come to see it as an artfully executed fraud, one viewed through a pair of proverbial rose-colored glasses? And, given both of these potential options, which one will she choose to embrace as the template she employs to create her future?
Some might look at a scenario like this and believe that Geoff may have selfishly manipulated circumstances to suit his own needs and desires, showing little regard for those of his wife. But, as conscious creators are well aware, we each create our own reality, and that’s just as true for Kate as it is for anyone else. If conditions have emerged that have caused her to question her situation, then Kate must understand that she drew them into her life, for better or worse (no pun intended).
It’s not entirely clear why she would choose to explore such a line of probability, but, when a scenario like this arises, it usually has something to do with some kind of life lesson. For instance, can she trust that she has created the life she wanted in spite of recent developments? Are those developments a test of her resolve that she has indeed materialized the existence she wanted, a test of faith in her own manifestation skills? Or has she deliberately chosen to undergo the experience of deceit and learn the lessons that come with it? Only Kate can answer these questions for herself, but, no matter what she decides, she needs to examine her beliefs to determine what they are and why they have produced the results she’s now experiencing.
Perhaps the most crucial question Kate faces is, what does it all mean for her future? Will she make peace with her creation, choosing to stay with Geoff and living out her days with him? Or will she allow herself to become consumed by feelings of betrayal, possibly prompting her to abandon the creation in which she’s invested 45 years of her life? These are obviously very big decisions, but only she can make them.
In coming to a conclusion about what to do, it would help Kate immeasurably to realize, as practiced conscious creators do, that the point of power is in the present. This is the only point in time over which she (or any of us, for that matter) has any direct, meaningful control. She no longer has access to a past that is behind her, and she has yet to arrive in a future that hasn’t occurred. But, in the present moment, she can determine what transpires in the next present moment by skillfully deploying the beliefs required to bring about the outcome she seeks.
In taking that step, though, Kate had better choose carefully, for the intents she puts in place now will determine where she finds herself next. Like all of us, she clearly has a range of options at her disposal. But the destiny in which she lands will all depend on which set of manifesting beliefs she chooses. It’s a big decision, one not to be taken lightly. But, then, that goes for any of us in making any conscious creation choice, something that we should never lose sight of, be it in matters of love, marriage or any other endeavor.
Despite some intermittent pacing issues, this portrait of a long-term marriage in quiet crisis delivers with understated power and fine performances by its two protagonists. Its deft handling of conflicted feelings and adept treatment of the uncertainties they evoke paint a complex, finely crafted story that leaves viewers hanging on every nuance right up until the end (and then some). The impact of these events is driven home skillfully by the performances of Courtenay and Rampling, who has received her first-ever (and long overdue) Oscar nomination for her stunning portrayal.
Those looking for what it means to be in love with someone – especially for the long term – will certainly find this story engaging and enlightening. “45 Years” isn’t always the easiest movie to watch, but it leaves an indelible impression on anyone who sees it. The film is currently playing in limited release in theaters specializing in independent cinema. It’s also available on DVD and Blu-ray disk, as well as from various streaming sources, in the U.K.
Loving someone is an adventure, to be sure, whether it’s merely for the interim or for the duration. When it comes to the long term, however, we had better choose our beliefs wisely, for the implications can be wide ranging and emotionally charged. We stand to gain – and lose – a lot by the beliefs we put forth, for they shape the existence we ultimately experience. Let’s hope they yield the happiness we seek, a rapturous joy that lasts for 45 years – and beyond.
Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.