Nominated for Best Actress at the 88th Academy Awards, Charlotte Rampling stars as Kate Mercer, an English woman who is days away from celebrating her 45th wedding anniversary. Her husband Jeff, played by Tom Courtenay, receives a letter saying that his ex-wife who went missing in 1962 has been found dead but encased in ice in the Swiss Alps. The film follows Kate over the course of five days as she deals with this revelation, which possibly starts to unravel her marriage.
What Kate didn’t know is the depth of the relationship between Jeff and his ex-wife. Even though he wasn’t actually married to his ex-wife, he considered himself as such, and he never told Kate. He kept that fact and many things about his ex-wife secret from Kate. She doesn’t make a huge deal out of it, but it eventually starts to bother her as the anniversary party draws nearer.
Written and directed by Andrew Haigh who created the critically-acclaimed Weekend (2011) and the HBO series Looking, this film never shifts point-of-view. It remains in Kate’s perspective from beginning to end. Yet, we feel Jeff start to be affected or act differently or out of the ordinary. Kate doesn’t confront him immediately. She carefully investigates him and what she discovers quietly devastates her, and Rampling delivers a great performance, which is probably the best, if not the only thing this film has going for it.
Haigh does intimate dramas extremely well. He does romantic deconstructions like nobody’s business. Typically, he’ll take a couple, either new or established, and pick that couple apart. His understanding of relationships is one of the most keen of any filmmaker. His previous two features were about homosexual relationships exclusively. This is his third yet first feature about a heterosexual relationship and not even one of characters his own age. The characters here are old enough to be his parents, but yet he handles them with such skill and aplomb.
The film has a very poignant ending much like Weekend. However, the ending to his 2011 film felt more satisfying. I felt more like I understood the characters better, where they’ve been, where they’re going and what they feel through it all. When the credits rolled here, I was left in confusion about the characters. It’s more than being left in limbo or having an ambiguous ending. The final shot has an action that didn’t seem totally earned.
Rated R for language and brief sexuality.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.
Playing in select cities, including Ritz 5 in Philadelphia and Bethesda Row Cinema in Washington, DC.