Charlotte Rampling Shines in ’45 Years’

On paper, the storyline of 45 Years might seem slight, even insignificant. It’s a credit to writer-director Andrew Haigh and his brilliant leading actors that it doesn’t play that way…not at all. The focus is on an older married couple who are content living in Norfolk, England, settled in their ways and about to observe a milestone anniversary.

Then he (Tom Courtenay) receives an unexpected letter that dredges up an incident involving someone from his distant past. He is dismissive of it, at least on the surface, but as the import of this news sinks in, she (Charlotte Rampling) begins to ruminate on how it affects their entire relationship.

Tom Courtenay-45 Years

Photo by Agatha A. Nitecka – Courtesy of 45 Years Films Ltd. / Sundance Selects

Much of the film plays out on Rampling’s face. This is screen acting of the highest order; the tiniest nuance of expression carries enormous weight, as we imagine what she is thinking. With each passing day her world becomes more fraught, as the letter (and other revelations) chip away at her seemingly solid existence.

Haigh adapted the short story by David Constantine and maintains a delicate touch as he guides his supremely talented stars through this material. A wrong turn or a heavy-handed moment could have set the film off-course, but Haigh, Courtenay and Rampling make their subtle work seem effortless.

It’s comforting to see that Charlotte Rampling’s performance is being widely recognized, even though the film isn’t a major studio release. She deserves every honor coming her way.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024