I really didn’t want to see this but you know what time of the year it is. That’s right. It’s the queer time of year when the grannies of the popcorn movies and the fetid sludge of Oscar-bait flicks combine to make an unholy goulash designed to punish two main groups of people:
- Those who don’t go to the movies very much.
- Those (like us) who go a lot.
There’s something to appall everyone this time of year. We see about 12 movies on average a month, The Boy and I, but January of 2015, we saw five. Just for example, this week, our “fresh” options are the lesbian movie, the transexual movie, and the communist writer movie. Oh, and the dysfunctional old couple movie. None of these were on my list, but we ended up at the dysfunctional old couple movie, 45 years, anyway.
I expected to really, really hate it. And, well, I didn’t like it. But I didn’t hate it. And I didn’t dislike it in the way that I thought I would. So, there’s that. And, at about an hour-and-a-half, it was only forty minutes longer than it needed to be, rather than ninety minutes longer.
Basically, what we have here is a love triangle. Kate and Geoff have been married for, you guessed it, 45 years. They’re having a big party to celebrate, because on their 40th, Geoff had some health problems that interfered with any possible celebrations. Then, the other woman shows up.
Well, sort of. Geoff gets a letter that says they’ve found the body of his lover, who perished in the icy Alps 50 years ago. And he gets a little wonky about this. Kate gets wonkier. And there’s your movie.
I’m not really kidding. That’s the whole thing. There are details slowly—excruciatingly slowly—revealed. And then they are pointedly not talked about in that English fashion where Things Are Not Talked About. And there are long scenes of, well, nothing really. Kate walks across a field. Kate goes to the mall. Kate—she’s the lead character, in case you hadn’t guessed—looks meaningfully at the attic. Sometimes these long scenes end in some new fact, while other times, they seem to neither reveal any new plot points nor aspects of character nor even make a symbolic or thematic statement.
Like Kate walking the dog across the empty field in long shot. That’s a scene. Maybe 2-3 minutes long. Why? The only thing I could think was that they were establishing she was in pretty good shape, while Geoff was rather doddering. But they established that repeatedly, with virtually every scene involving the two of them. There’s another scene where she plays piano for 2-3 minutes. I guess that was to show…hell, I don’t know, a reconnection with the past, or something.
I ended up not particularly liking either of them—I think Kate even less than Geoff—but that was refreshing in the sense that I expected to hate them both from the get-go.
So, this is an actor’s film. Highly feted Tom Courtenay (last seen by us in the much better Quartet) and even highly-er feted Charlotte Rampling (whom we last saw in Melancholia) apparently do some acting here. I mean, I don’t know what to say. I’m sure they were acting, in the sense that they haven’t actually been married for decades, but the acting isn’t the Award-winning Jumbo Ham-On-Rye style—and it’s also at the same time completely lacking in subtlety.
Director Andrew Haigh may have been going for the latter, but there’s a big difference between subtlety and ambiguity. In the end, we’re left with not really knowing how Geoff feels about things, which makes it impossible for us to assess Kate’s actions. There’s a lot that could’ve been done here, in terms of drama. For example, Kate and Geoff have never had children, and this past love may have been a hidden factor in that. But maybe not.
There’s even the fact that in the circumstances of her demise, the story Geoff tells sounds very close to one of a cheating girlfriend, or potentially so. Again, maybe, maybe not.
I don’t need things spoonfed to me, but I do need something to chew on while the camera is slowly following characters who aren’t really doing much of anything.
Maybe don’t try to make a feature film out of a short story next time? Or flesh it out a bit more? I dunno.