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Nathans, S. (2018). 45 Years written and directed by Andrew Haigh Sundance Selects, 2015; 1 hr, 35 min.. Fort Da, 24(2):97-101.
(2018). Fort Da, 24(2):97-101
Reviews: Film Review Essay
45 Years written and directed by Andrew Haigh Sundance Selects, 2015; 1 hr, 35 min.
Review by: Shelley Nathans, Ph.D.
On the eve of celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary, Kate and Geoff are thrown into crisis when a letter arrives delivering disturbing news from the past: the body of Geoff's former girlfriend, Katya, who died when the two of them were hiking in the Alps more than 50 years ago, has recently been discovered, where it had lain frozen under ice all these years. This trauma from Geoff's youth re-enters their life, re-emerges without warning, and blindsides them. It disrupts their present reality, forces them to grapple with the meaning of this revelation, and exposes the pre-existing fault lines in their relationship.
We notice a problem right away when they are talking about the letter and Geoff refers to “my Katya,” alerting us to a threat and a possible triangulation. The silence that follows and the look on Kate's face communicate confusion and hint at the anxieties of betrayal. Geoff says, “I know I told you about my Katya.” While Kate readily acknowledges that he has told her, we suspect that they have not spoken about Katya or her death in years. Later in the film, we learn that there are other losses they have not talked about, including the death of Kate's mother, who died around the same time. “It's funny,” Kate says, “we were both going through something unpleasant but we never talked about it, never.” Geoff says, “No, never.”
As the film progresses, we understand the extent to which they avoid acknowledging loss, don't talk to one another about it, and are incapable of mourning together as a couple. They bury their emotional experience and, like Katya's corpse, these feelings lay frozen in time. But in psychic life, that which is split off or denied often reemerges, leaks out, or breaks through in a sudden rupture. Loss that has not been mourned has a way of taking its toll, demanding its place in reality and, like a ghost, coming back to haunt us.
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