I understand the simplicity and beauty in exposing the lives of two people celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary, but even in knowing this 45 Years is a very different Oscar Watch.
A very very very different watch.
That is not to say it wasn’t good. There were good parts and themes to it, however, the overall product in its viewing proved tough to discern its true meaning in real time. It wasn’t until after the credits rolled and I had moved onto something else that I began thinking back to what I had seen from this film.
The story centers around Jeff and Kate and the week leading up to their 45th anniversary. They live simple lives in a simple setting with nothing outlandish to pull them away or distract them from just being with one another. It is during this time that Jeff receives a letter stating that one of his long lost friends, Catya, whom he knew before he met Kate and who died during a trip with Jeff in the Swiss mountains when they were very young, was found. What starts out as something small slowly grows into a larger issue bringing about Kate’s questioning of their entire marriage.
There are themes present within both Kate and Jeff that anyone who has entered a serious relationship with someone can empathize with. Kate’s search for a more complete answer outside of just the little bits of information that Jeff just so happens to remember when pressed fuels a growing desire for more of the truth, however, both the viewer and Kate understand that there will be no peace as a result of her findings. Yet, she presses forward. Kate begins feel as if she were an “alternate wife” and that it was meant to be Catya all along that Jeff wanted to end up with.
This is where the divide in thought occurs. On one side, you can understand Kate’s anger and need for the truth despite it being before she and Jeff had even met. The thought of your partner actually intending to spend their life with someone else only for that to be altered could eat away at someone’s sanity and clearly does with Kate. This is an aspect that is beautifully played by Charlotte Rampling and is most often conveyed through her face with little dialogue needed. This is an incredibly understated skill and one that easily got her the nomination for Best Actress.
From Jeff’s perspective, it almost isn’t fair to criticize his motivations before he met Kate and the loss of someone that could potentially become his wife only forced him to take a different path. This is nothing to come down one him for and the film does an interesting job of showing both sides to this. It isn’t until a certain moment where Kate’s pursuance of answers in their attic completely change what was previously thought by the viewer. There is an allusion to the idea that Jeff possibly held out hope that Catya was still alive, but nothing further is explored. This only causes Kate to unravel even further because the feeling of self doubt and insecurity about the last 45 years slowly takes her over.
As I mentioned earlier, these are all thoughts and realizations that did not occur to me during the viewing, but rather crept into my consciousness well after the movie was over. In my opinion, this is a mark of a great movie no matter the viewing experience which for me was mediocre at best. It wasn’t a lack of appreciation but more a confusion as to what was the point of such an argument or persistent questioning from wife to husband. My practical self was thinking, “What’s the big deal because she is no longer living and in the end Jeff chose Kate and their lives together have been wonderful.” As we know, life is not that cut and dry.
It isn’t until the film’s final sequence and more specifically, the final scene that you are left with a sense of wonder at what is in store for them beyond the 45 years Jeff and Kate have chosen to invest in each other. Life is messy and difficult and filled with different decisions that we are not always going to get right, but it is through some of these moments that can impact our lives in great ways. Jeff’s speech to Kate at the celebration is a declaration of love that he has felt since they’ve begun their journey together but has had a difficult time expressing and one could hope that it is not too late. Judging from Kate’s last scene the viewer is left wanting a resolution but ultimately knowing it will never come. AND WHAT A LAST SCENE IT WAS! This is true to life and as mentioned before the monotony and simplicity of spending your life with another for that amount of time is a beautiful accomplishment in itself. Kate had been questioning their entire lives together and whether or not it was a farce while Jeff was clearly happy to even make it to this point in his life with another whom he loves.
It’s movies such as 45 Years that I always love watching during Oscar time because they aren’t the loud bombastic films that occupy the summer or the serious movies that crowd the fall and winter time. While they might get lost in the shuffle, it’s movies such as this that is a gem worth watching not because it will change the way you view the world in one sitting, but the fact that you unknowingly carry with you its themes and observations and they begin to occupy your thoughts when you least expect it. That is the mark of a truly great film; the idea that it stays with you well after you have moved on from it. 45 Years successfully does this and thus deserves its place among the Oscar nominees.
45 Years: 3 GARYS