Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB
United Kingdom, 2015. BFI Film Fund, British Film Institute, The Bureau, Creative England, Film 4, The Match Factory, National Lottery through UK Film Council. Screenplay by Andrew Haigh, based on the short story In Another Story by David Constantine. Cinematography by Lol Crawley. Produced by Tristan Goligher. Production Design by Sarah Finlay. Costume Design by Suzie Harman. Film Editing by Jonathan Alberts.
Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay have been happily married for, as the title suggests, forty-five years, and living in their idyllic Norfolk home, where the exciting part of the day is taking their dog for a walk across the gorgeous empty fields that make up the breathtaking landscape. Coming up in a few days is a celebration party they have planned for their anniversary, originally to be thrown for their fortieth but pre-empted by Courtenay’s past health problems which are now settled.
When the post office brings a letter from continental Europe letting them know that the body of Courtenay’s girlfriend, a woman he dated before Rampling and who died in a skiing accident in the Alps, has been discovered frozen where she fell, it causes its own avalanche of revelations and realizations between what was previously a stable couple. What is the meaning of a life spent together if one person is only there because their actual choice was taken away? And what does it mean if that person insists that they are not unhappy with the way their life turned out?
Andrew Haigh’s brilliant, perfectly acted drama examines all these devastating, unsettling themes of longtime coupledom without ever letting it get contrived or melodramatic, instead detailing emotional devastation with the kind of detail that you usually get from reading an Iris Murdoch novel. Rampling’s piercing eyes and Courtenay’s dumbfounded stares are enough to make bombs burst wordlessly in this gorgeous film, and the tension between them mounts so subtly until the gloriously elegant finale. Also features a terrific supporting performance by the stunning Geraldine James.
The Criterion Collection: #861
Academy Award Nomination: Best Actress (Charlotte Rampling)
Berlin Film Festival Awards: Best Actor (Tom Courtenay); Best Actress (Charlotte Rampling)
European Film Award: Best European Actress (Charlotte Rampling)
Nominations: Best European Actor (Tom Courtenay); Best European Screenwriter
Toronto International Film Festival: 2015