British OAP dramas 45 Years and Le Weekend are cut from the same cloth.
The latter saw an elderly couple make for Paris to revisit the same break they enjoyed in their younger years but the trip exposed some trouble in the marriage. The former is another exploration of love in the twilight years and finds again that it’s not all about tending cabbages in the allotment.
Retired couple Rampling and Courtenay have been married for the titular time and are setting about organising their wedding anniversary. However, Courtenay receives news that his former lover, who fell into a Swiss glacier and disappeared in 1962, has been found immaculately preserved in the ice. The news sends quiet ripples through the content marriage at first but then it slowly reveals some underlying issues that have gone ignored. As Courtenay reminisces, divulging his great love for her and admitting they would have married if she hadn’t died, Rampling’s jealousy grows…
The catalyst for the events that follow is a little on the extraordinary side but everything else rings true. Like Roger Michell and Le Weekend, Haigh has a knack of getting under the fingernails of scenes to find brutally honest moments. But don’t expect any About Schmidt turnaround or slamming doors or cups to be thrown – this is an altogether quieter affair. The director drops in some surprises and some wonderful scenes along the way; one terrific moment has Rampling, just as she begins to doubt her entire marriage, reluctantly pulled into a conversation with the DJ for their anniversary who is asking for the love songs that have meant most to the them over the years.
Courtenay and Rampling beautifully underplay it. He’s distant and distracted, the preservation of his former lover forcing him to look at his aged body and what he has done with his life. Rampling has more to do: a woman who knows it’s ridiculous to be jealous but can’t help feeling that she’s been second choice. They try and force it, to put this behind them, attempting sex for the first time in years, but there’s no denying that a malaise has festered. These feelings are buried in small gestures and half smiles.
Touching, insightful and honest. Just compare these movies with the nonsense of The Bucket List or Last Vegas.