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American Women's Club of Hamburg

45 Years

Andrew Haigh - UK
Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate (Charlotte Rampling) are coming up on their 45th wedding anniversary. A party is planned with all of their friends and everything is going well. That is until Geoff receives a letter from the Swiss government informing him that they found the body of his girlfriend who died in a mountain accident fifty years before. This shocking turn of events may just destroy their marriage.
From the beginning we see that Kate is struggling to handle the situation. Her jealousy of her husband’s obvious feelings for his deceased former girlfriend is clear from the beginning. She struggles as Geoff becomes increasingly distracted and barely manages any sympathy or empathy at his predicament. Geoff is clearly grieving the loss and becomes distant and difficult, but Kate only sees this as showing that he loved another woman more than her. And perhaps this isn’t too far from the truth as it becomes clear that she shares several similarities with the girlfriend, including similar names (Kate and Katya) and hair color. The conflict grows as their anniversary grows closer.
There is not much to the story and so the film is propelled by the interactions between Courtenay and Rampling. That they both won Silver Bears for their acting is not surprising all things considered. Much of their characters’ relationship is inferred not through dialogue, but rather through body language and it is in this that their ability as actors truly shines.
Unfortunately, despite quality of acting, the film stutters because of its rather simplistic story. It is a character play, but one where the players seem to be making much out of something very small. At times it feels as though these two people cannot possibly have been together for 45 years because they seem to not know one another at all. And indeed in the finale it becomes clear that much of their happiness has been based on the appearances as we the audience see that Kate herself is no longer invested and doesn’t believe in her husband any longer. It is a cold and bleak look at long-term relationships which seems rather unrevealing in the end. (RF)

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