“The Witch” isn’t the only unnerving horror movie new to Omaha theaters today.
The exquisite “45 Years” draws a staggering amount of tension, but not from a ghoul or killer. The monster here is a spilled secret in a long marriage.
In what’s mostly a two-hander film, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play Kate and Geoff Mercer. The two live in a lovely little house in the English countryside. They’re retired, long ago having fallen into the comfortable rhythms of a good and simple life. Their one source of excitement is preparing for their 45th wedding anniversary.
But their tranquility is shattered when Geoff receives some amazing news: The body of Katya, whom Geoff was with before Kate, has been found more than 50 years after she fell into the crevasse of an iceberg in Switzerland.
Kate knew about Katya and Geoff, but she didn’t know everything about Katya and Geoff. Geoff becomes increasingly distraught and guarded following the news. Kate can’t reach him. An old wound has been torn open, and Kate begins to question whether her husband married the love of his life after all.
Over the course of one painful week, the foundation on which Kate and Geoff have built a life begins to collapse. The secret splinters their marriage not unlike, say, a sharp crack stabbing through a melting iceberg.
I’m mostly serious when I call “45 Years” a horror movie. After all, what’s more terrifying than learning you barely know the person you’ve spent most of your life with?
Writer/director Andrew Haigh slowly ratchets up the anxiety in a way not dissimilar to a good slasher film. There are other hallmarks of the genre: a door slowly closing behind Kate, a lonesome, howling wind outside. Kate goes into the attic when she absolutely should not go into the attic.
Courtenay is very good as the doofy and distant Geoff. But this is thoroughly Rampling’s movie — she’s up for an Oscar nomination for best actress.
The camera rarely leaves her face, where a whole lifetime of memories and emotions are playing out.
The film’s last shot, and the look on Kate’s face, is so perfect it’s scary.
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay
Director: Andrew Haigh
Rating: R for language and brief sexuality
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Theaters: Film Streams