Warning: Contains plot spoilers
The Scoop – A slow-moving, low-key drama with powerful emotions below the surface
Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are approaching their 45th wedding anniversary. Amid the gentle rhythms of everyday life and the last-minute party preparations, an unexpected piece of news arrives. The body of Geoff’s former girlfriend Katya, who died many years ago in a skiing accident, has been found perfectly preserved inside a Swiss glacier.
As Geoff withdraws, brooding over what might have been, Kate begins to crumble: what do the celebrations mean now that her whole lifetime with Geoff has been cast in a different light? Over the course of a few days in the run-up to their anniversary, both are shocked to find their marriage shaken to its foundations.
I watched 45 Years in less-than-ideal circumstances (video on demand, noisy office, in fragments between other work) so I’m probably not best placed to offer a critical assessment of it. There’s also that old problem of expectations. Having failed to catch it on its cinema release, I’d already heard all of the stellar reviews, so it’s tricky to calibrate my own personal response.
It’s a slow, quiet, naturalistic film, a story where seismic emotional shifts happen in the smallest gestures and facial expressions. Its portrait of a long-standing marriage is rich and textured, largely thanks to excellent performances from Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay (though I struggle to take the latter seriously after this memorably eccentric interview). And there’s something about its central idea which really gets its claws into you; what happens when, after a 45-year marriage, you discover you were your spouse’s second choice? Though my attention may have wandered during the film itself, I’ve felt haunted by it since.
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? Why did you choose to watch it? Did it live up to your expectations?
- How did you react to the film’s naturalistic style and slow pace? In your view, are these qualities absorbing or off-putting?
- What do we learn about Kate and Geoff in the early scenes of the film? How do the filmmakers establish what their lives are like, what kind of people they are, and what kind of marriage they have?
We aren’t trying to recreate the wedding. It’s just a party. – Kate
- How does Geoff respond to the news about Katya’s body? Why do you think he reacts this way, and what might it tell us about him? Does his speech at the end of the film tell us more about his state of mind?
- What is Kate’s first reaction to the news about Katya’s body? What emotions does she experience, and why? What questions does the news raise for her?
She’ll look like she did in 1962, and I look like this. – Kate
- How do Kate’s thoughts and emotions change throughout the film, as she makes new discoveries about Geoff and Katya? Why do you think she doesn’t explicitly confront Geoff with the question of Katya’s pregnancy?
- How do you interpret the film’s final scene? Has Kate forgiven Geoff, or is she unable to? How has her life, and her marriage, been changed?
It’s like she’s been standing in the corner of the room all this time, behind my back. And it’s tainted everything. – Kate
- What does 45 Years have to say about universal questions of aging and regret? What might Katya’s frozen body symbolise in this respect? How much power does the past have over our lives?
- What might it take for any marriage to endure for as long as 45 years? Are secrets, unspoken truths and uncomfortable compromises a necessary part of the deal? Why, or why not?