Behind every great man there’s a great woman we are told. The same female support system would seem to be in place to the rear of the occasional silly old fool too.
Geoff, a dithering and rather vulnerable character (played by Tom Courtenay), on receiving some sad news concerning a past flame, is suddenly vaulted emotionally backwards in time, rekindling in his mind at least, a long since past dalliance with a German sweetheart from his youth, by the name of Katia.
The two of them we are informed were care free and adventurous; full of, in Geoff’s own words, the purposefulness of youth.
Geoff now lives out his retirement years with Kate (played with immense stoicism by the excellent Charlotte Rampling), his wife of 45 years.
Director Andrew Haigh emphasises this contrast through historic references to Geoff’s mountainous exploration with Katia in the Swiss Alps, whereas these days he spends his time peacefully with Kate in the gentle countryside of Norfolk.
The timing of Geoff’s cerebral upheaval could not be any worse with only one week to go until he and his ever supportive wife are due to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary by throwing a lavish party for friends and family.
Geoff, it’s fair to say, is reluctant to attend, but as Kate’s friend is keen to point out; no men really ever look forward to such events, yet they’re always the first to break down through the emotion of such occasions and this is why it’s so important that women ensure that they actually take place. It’s a way of showing men just how lucky they in fact are.
The scenario is one that is eating away at the very fabric of the couple’s marriage, putting into question whether Kate has in fact ever been enough in Geoff’s life, or whether she’s been playing second fiddle all these years to a girl that Geoff only ever knew for a fraction of the time?
45 Years brought to mind one of Neil Hannon’s Divine Comedy lyrics… “I fall in love with someone new practically every day, but that’s ok, it’s just the price I pay for being a man…” – A male truism if ever there was one.
It’s a film that lays bare men’s fickle nature and frequent follies; those that test the resilience of the women that live with them and indeed stand by their men.
Andrew Haigh’s handling of David Constantine’s short story is both sensitively and subtlety done, producing what is an expertly realised, poignant drama.