The Mercers are a comfortably-off, Left-wing, childless, provincial couple in England. They are on the point of celebrating forty-five years of marriage with a party. The action takes place in the week leading up to the party. Geoff is given news of a woman in his life before marriage, and we see how this affects Charlotte and the marriage. Not much of a storyline, and the film feels like a short story. On the other hand, the acting is superb. For the many people who relate to the couple, it can even be mesmerizing. As an anthropological study of such a couple in England, it is perfect. It feels so real, and the atmosphere in which their life is set is so accurate, one could almost be there, watching them as they deal with the news. Or rather, as they don't deal with the news.
As a psychological study of such a couple it is so delicate and sensitive many people find it extremely moving. The action is seen in the faces of the couple, especially Charlotte. Although they have lived together for so many years, Geoff and Charlotte haven't learned to communicate with each other. They can't talk about their feelings or fears. If Charlotte had been able to say to Geoff, "I am afraid that Katya, who was your first love and carrying your baby, is more important to you than I am. I am afraid that I have always been second best in your life". If Geoff had been able to say to Charlotte, "Katya was my first love and was extremely important in my life, and I am grieving for her. But you are my second love and more important to me. Even in spite of the fact that we haven't been able to have children together", Charlotte might have been able to share his grief. But neither could say these things. The action is nuanced and internal, and changes their relationship, not for the better from Charlotte's point of view.
The relationship between the couple has lost its first fervour after forty-five years. We see them having sex, and it could hardly be called inspiring. Definitely no fireworks! Under the covers, of course, Geoff slides on top of Kate, a few ups and downs, a grimace on Geoff's face, and the job is done. We don't see Kate, but no doubt she is lying back with her eyes closed, following the advice of Queen Victoria to her daughter as she is getting married, "Close your eyes and do it for England!"
Their life is in a well-worn, comfortable groove. They never share their feelings, or even what they are thinking. Although seen as a happy marriage, perhaps a little boring? Do they tolerate each other because they love each other, or because it is expected they stay together? Perhaps it would be too difficult to part?
The pace of 45 Years reminds one that the couple had been married for all that long time. Just a little bit slow! If I am honest, I had great difficulty keeping my eyes open during the film. One of the friends who was with me actually fell asleep. I was left with a feeling of impatience for the couple and the attitudes that kept them silent. So much unsaid, leading to such silent unhappiness! Another friend loved the film and found it riveting.
Would I recommend this film? Yes, if you are looking for an adult film about the interplay of characters on an inner level, and the tragedy of such a relationship. No, if you are looking for light entertainment and a "feel good" movie.