Sundance Selects 95 minutes R
This film is slow, intense, sometimes painful, but also very beautiful. It’s an examination of a marriage and what happens to a relationship when long held secrets are revealed.
Charlotte Rampling has already won numerous awards and is Oscar nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Kate Mercer. She and her husband Geoff, played by Tom Courtenay, (also garnering kudos) are getting ready for their 45th wedding anniversary party which was postponed when he had a heart attack 5 years prior. They live very normal lives outside a small English town that is more quaint than picturesque. He’s a retired plant manager and she is a retired teacher. They have no children, but they do have a dog.
When a letter arrives about what happened to someone close from his past, everything begins to change and they both find out things that threaten their relationship. Do they really know each other?
British Writer/Director Andrew Haigh wrote the screenplay from a short story called In Another Country by David Constantine. He put in a lot of detail, but Rampling is really the centerpiece of this film. Through her, we get to explore the emotional side of their relationship as events in their past weigh on their future together.
It’s hard to watch both Rampling and Courtenay struggle with their emotions while trying to keep their everyday lives on an even keel. Rampling says she doesn’t always make films to entertain but needs to have a challenge to break through her own limits.
You know from the start that there’s more to her than meets the eye. And the same goes for Geoff. The film plods along, but becomes a deliberately slow reveal as you get to know this couple and see them interact not only with each other, but their band of friends.
There are no great events. The film keeps building towards prep for the party and what happens there starts the conversation. Rampling and Courtenay make the relationship believable for a couple who have been together for 45 years. Both of their performances are remarkable. They think they know each other and show it in so many ways. But do they really?
At one point, Geoff asks Kate, “You really believe you haven't been enough for me?” Kate says, “No, I think I was enough for you. I’m just not sure you do.” In spite of Geoff trying to reassure her at one point that he thought she was a knockout from day one.
Is this worth your bucks? These are ordinary people who come to a fork in the road which causes them to examine their relationship. Everything is very restrained and just under the surface. It’s hard for actors to sustain that level without wanting to break loose. The performances by these two veterans, who have worked together before, shows great strength. They are both getting kudos and deserve them, as does the director for making the pace work. If you allow yourself to take this slow stroll along with this troubled couple, they’ll make you care about them and that is the beauty of this film.