The rented hall is decorated, the tables are set and the guests have all arrived. Kate and Geoff Mercer will be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary tonight. In the car on the way to the festivities, Geoff gives Kate a special necklace. She thinks it’s lovely and tells him that she regrets not giving him a gift for the occasion. She thought about maybe giving him a watch but she didn’t know what to engrave on it.
The couple arrive and it is a beautiful affair. After many cheerful greetings, Geoff makes a short speech about how much he loves his wife and tears up while doing so. Everyone is touched. Everyone is having a great time. Except Kate.
This is last scene in Andrew Haigh’s indie film, 45 Years. British icons Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay share the screen in a film that is simple, quiet and in the end, heartbreaking. It is a story about how one week before their celebration, Geoff receives letter from Switzerland. The news is grim. The body of one of Geoff’s former girlfriends has been found after being buried in ice and snow for decades. Geoff receives the letter because the writer believes that he is next-of-kin.
While on a hiking vacation, Geoff and his girlfriend pretended to be married because at the time, people looked down on unmarried couples vacationing together he says. In a tragic trail of events, the girl fell to her death in a fissure. “A fissure,” he tells his wife, “I suppose you’d call it – like a narrow crack in the rock.” He doesn’t realize how this new news is also like a small crack to his marriage that will only grow in the coming days.
Geoff starts to struggle with feelings of what life would have been like had his previous girlfriend survived. At least, that we the audience think while watching the film. The story is really told from Kate’s point of view. She asks him if he would have married his former sweetheart had she not fallen and without hesitation, he tells Kate that he would. Kate is taken back by the blunt honesty.
Kate now struggles with feeling of jealousy and can’t really understand why. She tries to pass off early feelings on her husband stating that he “gets over-passionate about things” but later concedes that she is jealous. “I can hardly be cross with something that happened before we existed, can I?” Oh, but indeed she can.
Although 45 Years does have some romantic scenes and some pleasant quietness about it, it isn’t much of a happy movie. Even before the letter, we see Kate talk about the celebration, but doesn’t seem too happy about it. Her friend tells her that she looks tired. And she does. Rampling is a beautiful woman, but she does look tired. Perhaps this is all some clever foreshadowing.
In the movie’s press release, Haigh is interviewed about the movie. One question is asked is if he agrees that British people have a hard time sharing sensitive topics with each other, as it appears to be the case in this film.
“I do think there is something culturally and politically conservative about the British which encourages many to bury their feelings for the sake of keeping the status quo. This is certainly the case with the English middle classes,” says Haigh. “Saying that, I think it’s very hard for anyone to be truly open about their feelings because for most of the time they make no sense to us. We can experience them but it is hard for us to articulate what they are. It is also a risk – sharing you inner most feelings is always going to feel like a risk.”
In 45 Years, it appears that the death of a former lover had not been discussed, at least at any real depth, until the recent turn of events. It becomes pretty obvious to the causal viewer that had the couple talked about the former relationship earlier on in their marriage, that this wouldn’t be such a huge hurdle to jump over now.
According to Psychology Today, there is a relatively little research on couples who keep secrets. However, they did report from a 2012 study that “60% of the participants admitted to keeping at least one secret from their partners at some point; about 25% said they were currently keeping such a secret. On a relationship secret scale created by the researchers, based on the number and frequency of secrets and ranging from 0 to 355, the participants’ average score was 217.” So, why do couples keep secrets?
“People in relationships keep secrets for many reasons, says Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph. D. “First and foremost, particularly for women, is reluctance to hurt their partner or damage the relationship. For married people, keeping a secret allows them to avoid their partners’ disapproval.
According to the Hitched website, the biggest secrets that can ruin a marriage are: Affairs, the existence of other children from previous relationships, a history of sexual abuse, important health conditions, sexually transmitted diseases, large amount of debt, hidden negative feelings, a criminal past, secret friendships and addictions.
“Everyone enters marriage with the hope that it will be a loving, lasting bond. Don’t allow that bond to be comprised by keeping secrets from your spouse. Be honest and forthcoming now, so that any secrets and the associated consequences don’t weigh down your relationship later,” says Desiree S. Coleman.
45 Years is definitely a good, it not sobering movie to watch and take in and yet, by doing so, it could help save your marriage.