Telluride: '45 Years' Thrusts Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay Into Oscar Race

The British indie drama, whose stars both won Silver Bear acting prizes at the Berlin International Film Festival, explores how one jarring event causes an older couple to reconsider everything they've previously experienced together.
Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival
Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling in '45 Years'

45 Years, a slowly paced but deeply moving British indie drama about a couple experiencing turbulence in their marriage on the eve of their 45th anniversary, had its North American premiere Saturday afternoon at the Telluride Film Festival’s Chuck Jones Cinema — and, in my estimation, it thrust a pair of revered vets, 69-year-old Charlotte Rampling (1974's The Night Porter) and 78-year-old Tom Courtenay (an Oscar nominee for 1965's Doctor Zhivago and 1983's The Dresser), firmly into this year's lead-acting Oscar races.

The film, which was adapted from a short story and directed by Andrew Haigh (2011's Weekend and HBO's Looking), had its world premiere back in February at the Berlin International Film Festival, where Rampling and Courtenay won Silver Bear acting awards in their respective categories.

With only a few notable exceptions, such as Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) and Amour (2012), the inner lives of seniors rarely have been explored in motion pictures, since the ticket-buying audience is predominantly young. But this film disregards any such considerations and explores, in depth, how one jarring event causes an older couple to reconsider everything they've previously experienced together: The body of the man's long-ago girlfriend, who had perished in a tragic accident decades earlier, "re-emerges" in a preserved state (she was frozen in a glacier), and that stirs up feelings in the man, which stirs up feelings in the woman.

Stating anything more about the plot would be a disservice to people who haven't yet seen the film. But suffice it to say that a number of its moments — a carefree dance sequence, a bumbling attempt at sex and, especially, one Courtenay speech and one Rampling expression late in the film — are for the ages.

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