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45 Years (2015)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/14/2016

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Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/16/2016

Imagine that there is a person who has lived in an isolated environment in which they have been cut off from all other human contact. However, what if this individual had access to movies and television shows. This person would most likely have an interesting view of human behavior. One facet of human life on which they would hold a particular opinion would be marriage. For some reason, entertainment makes marriage look like the worst decision which anyone could make, as couples only argue, belittle one another, and, of course, never have sex. That isolated soul would assume that marriage is a fictional concept, because no one would actually do that. The British drama 45 Years brings us yet another example of this.

Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay) are a mature couple who live their quiet lives in a quaint British community. Their daily routine includes Kate walking the dog in the morning and Geoff reading. They are approaching their 45th wedding anniversary and a big party is going to be held to commemorate the event. As the week leading up to the celebration begins, Geoff receives a mysterious letter. Nearly 50 years ago, Geoff and his then girlfriend Katya, had been hiking in the Alps, when Katya fell to her death. Now, all of these years later, her body has been found under the ice. This awakens long dormant memories for Geoff and an alien sense of jealousy in Kate. How will these old souls deal with this new feelings?

On the surface, 45 Years appears to be a fairly standard drama, and in many ways, it is, but I have to say that the story's driving factor is something which I've never seen before. Sure, we've seen movies where a character is suddenly reminded of something or someone from their past which affects the present, but learning that a former lover has been found in a block of ice is certainly a novel concept. And the fact that the deceased individual basically has the same name as her is definitely a slap in the face to Kate. 45 Years does not give us a ton of backstory on Kate and Geoff, but it's fairly easy to assume that he is a fairly even-keeled, if not dull, person, but the news of Katya's frozen corpse makes him very agitated and he begins to talk of going to Europe to view the body, which does not sit well with Kate.

To say that 45 Years is a subtle movie would be an understatement. Again, we learn very little about the Mercers other than the obvious -- they are an older couple whose lives have become somewhat static. It's obvious that the letter not only opens some long-forgotten old wounds, but it also causes Kate to not only look at Geoff in a new light, but her life as well. It's not until the second half of the film that some things begin to become evident. Kate sees that Geoff is anti-social and somewhat cold. She can't believe that he is talking about going on a trip when their big event is coming up. We also get the impression that the party is a sham -- it's celebrating a marriage which has barely stuck together over the years. We do learn that plans to have a party for their 40th anniversary were cancelled due to Geoff having health problems, but we aren't sure if Kate is resentful of this. Geoff seems to be physically fine now, but his impromptu trips to town imply that he could have cognitive difficulties.

As noted at the outset, 45 Years does not paint a great picture of marriage. It presents us with a couple who apparently have stayed together because they don't know what else to do. As the film ends on a silent note, we are left with the feeling that Kate feels completely lost. Rampling received an Oscar nod for her performance, much of which is done through her facial expressions, her naturally sad face conveying a ton of emotions. The movie will be far too quiet and understated for many viewers, and those looking for a War of the Roses-type of knock-down, drag-out fighting will be very disappointed. This is a small portrait of a sad life, which, again, paints an incredibly distorted view of marriage.

45 Years should have shown us the frozen corpse on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. Overall, this is a somewhat dark movie, as the exteriors are often overcast, and the interior of the Mercer's home is not well-lit, but the image is never overly dark. We don't get many bright colors here, but the tone do look realistic. The level of detail is good, as we can make out every line in Rampling's face and the depth makes the ever-present landscape shots look good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Again, this is a quiet film, so we are mostly treated to dialogue which emanates from the center channel and the film's score, which does fill the speakers. There are some mild stereo and surround effects during the scenes in the village and during the party.

The 45 Years Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long