Sunday, December 20, 2015

The best-yet from Andrew Haigh, 45 YEARS gives Rampling and Courtenay plum roles

What a career so far has had British writer/director Andrew Haigh. Though TrustMovies has not seen his first film, Greek Pete, his second (Weekend) and third, the just-opening 45 YEARS -- with two seasons of the fine HBO series, Looking, boxed between -- is more than enough to place this fellow among the top tier of filmmakers who understand how to probe relationships and their place within the society around them. Haigh (shown below) will probably never make an Avengers blockbuster, but for those of us who want intimate, honest and revealing on our menu, he is not only the chef du jour but very likely de la vie.

Haigh really is a writer. His dialog sparkles, not so much with Wilde-ian or Coward-like bon mots, but with a reality that grounds everything and even, sometimes, does indeed sparkle with wit and charm. Mostly though, it reflects so very well the character of the speaker that we come to understand as fully as possible the person we're watching and with whom we're empathizing. This is no small potatoes. For those of us who want to enter the lives of others as fully as possible, in fact, his work proves about as fulfilling as it gets. If he is no great visual artist as yet, it seems to be that with each new project, he grows quietly and slowly in this regard, as well.

45 Years is his most fully realized work yet, even if Looking, with its series approach, allowed him to probe at greater length. In this latest work, he's cast two superb actors, Charlotte Rampling (above) and Tom Courtenay (below), playing long-time mates who, one typical and pleasant morning, get some news that sets in motion all kinds of unearthings and repercussions.

The film is full of such understanding of how long-time marriages work, as well as how we can, even into the later years, be surprised by ourselves and our significant others, whom we seem never to know as fully as we might have imagined.

Here, as the couple and their closest friends prepare for a celebration of the pair's marriage (45, though not a major anniversary, is being celebrated due to a missed event some years previous), we and they learn things that might be better have been left unexplored. Once opened, however, the contents keep bubbling over.

Haigh allows us to get a fine sense of the couple's everyday activities, and, as we probe their inner lives, we discover more. Ms Rampling has seldom has the chance to explore a character this fully and exquisitely, and she rises to the challenge with every movement, expression and pore (I should think she'd be a shoo-in for Best Actress nomination.). Courtenay has the harder role because, being a man, his character has simply repressed so much for so long that the unearthing leaves him weak and spent, even as he barely comes to terms with it all.

The supporting cast is fine and effective, with Geraldine James (above) the standout as Rampling's best friend and sounding board. But it is Mr. Haigh to whom the lions' share of the praise must go. He has taken a short story (by David Constantine) and adapted it beautifully, then filmed the result with the help of his fine cast so that we enter these lives about as fully and believably as possible, with nary a touch of melodrama.

The movie takes us to the brink, as does Ms Rampling, leaving us in a state of breathless agitation and near wonder. It will leave intelligent audiences talking amongst themselves, I suspect, about the finale and what it presages, as few other films have done this year.

45 Years, from Sundance Selects and IFC Films and running a precise and swift 95 minutes, plays New York City at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinema; in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal.

Here in Southern Florida, the film will open January 22 in Miami at MDC’s Tower Theatre and the South Beach 18, and at the O Cinemas in Miami Beach. On January 29, look for it at the Cosford Cinema, Miami; in Broward at Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood, and The Classic Gateway 4; and in Palm Beach County at the  Living Room Theater and the Regal Shadowood 16, both in Boca Raton; at the Movies of Delray and the  Movies of Lake Worth.

On February 5, it hits  Key West's Tropic Cinema and Sarasota's Burns Court Cinemas. February 12 will see it open in Ft. Myers at the Regal Bell Tower 20; in Naples at the Regal Hollywood Stadium 20, Silverspot; and in Benita Springs at the Prado. On  February 26, it comes to Orlando's Enzian theatre.

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