Released a barebones Blu-ray by Paramount last summer, Criterion has given Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years the special edition treatment, with a, “high definition digital transfer supervised by director Andrew Haigh.” Criterion has also offers a solid slate of extras, including an audio commentary with Andrew Haigh and producer Tristan Goligher, a new documentary featuring interviews with actors Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, and others involved with the film, and a new interview with David Constantine, author of the short story on which the film is based.
Closing in on their 45th anniversary, Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are busily preparing to mark what promises to be happy occasion. However, just days before the party, their lives take an unexpected turn. A letter from Switzerland arrives for Geoff with news concerning a woman named Katya. Initially, the name means nothing to Kate, but it’s clear that Katya has stirred strong emotions in her husband. Geoff is quick to remind Kate that Katya was his old girlfriend decades earlier. In the 1960’s they hiked through Switzerland together; tragedy struck when she fell to her death and was apparently lost to nature. Now, nearly fifty years later, she has been found. Making the news even more amazing, her body has been perfectly preserved in a glacier. Geoff’s gut reaction is to go retrieve her body.
Though it’s Geoff who receives the letter, the real focus of 45 Years quickly shifts to Kate, who must watch as the man she loves struggles to come to terms with his obviously deep feelings for a dead woman. Over the course of the week leading up to the anniversary party, Kate does her best to be supportive and understanding toward Geoff regarding the whole thing, but there’s an obvious distance between the two. She had always believed he loved her as much as she. However, as the film goes on, Kate is faced with a once unimaginable question: has she been the love of his life, or simply his second choice?
There are no big fights, or even a harsh word exchanged. However, the various looks on Kate’s face tell you all you need to know from one scene to the next. The silences are devastating, the tension in every shot palpable. In several scenes, Director Andrew Haigh lets his camera linger on Rampling, allowing her eyes to say more than ten lines of dialogue ever could. Sometimes, it’s a gesture that fills in effectively for dialogue. Tom Courtenay’s character isn’t a bad guy; there’s nothing to suggest he doesn’t love Kate, but a victim of circumstance.
45 Years is a mature and understated film. Both Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay have been making films since the 1960’s. The two play very well off each other and have delivered a compelling portrait of a longstanding marriage in crisis.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p presentation sports a clean image. Colors look slightly muted at times, but that appears to have been the filmmaker’s intent. Detail is quite good throughout and no noise is apparent. When compared to the Paramount Blu-ray release, Criterion offers richer blacks and an uptick in contrast, allowing for more detail in several shots.
Criterion’s 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix appears to be virtually identical to the Paramount release. While nothing earth shattering, the track serves this dialogue driven film well. The eclectic soundtrack from Dusty Springfield to Mozart comes across with surprising richness. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout.
There are English SDH subtitles included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Haigh and Producer Tristan Goligher: Recorded in 2015, the two discuss various shooting locations, editing choices, the different issues faced by Kate and Geoff, the ending, and more.
- The Making of 45 Years (HD, 36:42) Recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2016, this documentary features new interviews with director Andrew Haigh, Tom Courtenay, Charlotte Rampling, producer Tristan Goligher, and editor Jonathan Alberts, etc. They discuss various aspects of the production process.
- David Constantine (HD, 13:14) Recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2016, author / poet David Constantine discusses Andrew Haigh’s adaptation of his short story, “In Another Country” and some of the changes made for the film.
- Trailer (HD, 2:07)
- Leaflet: An illustrated leaflet featuring an essay by critic Ella Taylor.
Movie title: 45 Years (2015)
Director(s): Andrew Haigh
Actor(s): Charlotte Rampling Geraldine James , Tom Courtenay, Dolly Wells , Sam Alexander, Hannah Chalmers