1 hour 35 minutes
From Sundance Selects
Picture it. Current times. Somewhere in the English countryside. You and your partner, both retired, share a lovely home. Your life is quiet, routine, rather happy. You still play music from your teen and young adult years. You enjoy walking the dog, smelling the flowers, being softly cradled in the glow of the serenity of your senior lives. You are readying for a party a few days off that is celebrating your 45-year marriage. Why 45? Well, sickness prevented your having a 40th party and who's to say you should put anything off five more years?
Into this bucolic bliss comes some news from your partner that some piece of information has been kept from you... always. It happened before you met so it doesn't involve you to that degree. Yet, one is caught up in the unexpectedness of hearing about it and simply wondering why it has never been put out there.
If that's not enough to warrant your attention, consider that your partner is still not willing to elaborate. So now, if you're picturing it, what do you think you would do at this point? And just for fun, let's not forget that anniversary party coming up where 40-50 people are watching for all the cooing and declarations of love and how you've managed to pull it all off due to your exquisite communication enhanced by generous doses of honesty and respect.
What Kate goes through after hearing this new information and what Geoff endures after revealing something he wishes he never had is the basis of this wonderful little gift of a film. No doubt some would bemoan the lack of physical action and cry out that things are moving too slowly, but not this moviegoer. There is no shortage of quiet emotional action and a intimate look into a marriage. For all those times one may wish to be a fly on the wall in someone's marriage, here is that opportunity.
I have always remembered something I heard in a writing class...
the best characters give voice to the ideals of the common man. Here is an examination of a marriage, a good partnership really, but like a tire that suddenly hits a big hole, we can hear the air coming out. What to do? Can we patch it? Must it be discarded?
I knew I'd heard the name Andrew Haigh but I couldn't remember from where? In searching him out I discovered that he was the director of a number of episodes of HBOs Looking, a gay-themed show I loved. His only other theatrical directorial efforts seemed to be gay-themed as well. The sensitive handling of this relationship certainly needs a special touch and I suspect we can thank Haigh for it. This, like Brokeback Mountain, was based on a very short story, and Haigh has written an engrossing adaptation.
And of course he has acquired the just-right casting by signing on a golden pair like Rampling and Courtenay, old hands at playing off one another. They were in the thriller, Night Train to Lisbon in 2013. Told clearly from the woman's point of view, Haigh shows Rampling in countless silent scenes, the camera hugging a face that can do more acting than most actors can with words. I was taken with a bed scene where there are closeups of them both together and yet Courtenay who is talking is blurred out while Rampling is only listening in him sharp focus.
Rampling captures the sense of isolation and heartbreak her character is feeling. It is a glorious performance, most worthy of her current Oscar nomination for best actress. Her talent is considerable. I hope she wins.
Courtenay is perfection as a too-fragile and too-vague husband who is too lacking in knowing his wife's needs. She has undoubtedly taken such good of care of him that he gets lost in his own world without thinking of hers or considering that hers may not be as ordered after all. He is not a villain, no one here is, but one would be more critical of his emotional absent-mindedness.
The film ends at the anniversary party with one of those lingering shots of Rampling, the longest and best of them all. What an actress. What a character. What a decision. What do you suppose it is?
This is a film that would be best to see with someone, especially a partner, so you can discuss it afterwards. I was pretty chatty (oh?) and I think a number of good points could be raised in such a conversation, yours included. The questions would vary widely but I found myself asking in her place... would I rather be right or happy? Could I forgive? Could I regard it as a bump in the road or does in mean goodbye?
Seniors who cry out for more films on seniors can exhale for a while now. This one is for you although like any film done this well, it's really for anyone who likes good movies.