Writer/director Andrew Haigh, who made the sensitive gay love story “Weekend”, here demonstrates once more his feeling for the nuances of relationships, this time in the story of an older and heterosexual couple.
Kate (Rampling) and Geoff (Courtenay) are living in serene country retirement and are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. Then Geoff receives news that the body has been found of the girlfriend he had back in 1962, who was killed in an accident in the Swiss Alps. As the week towards their anniversary party proceeds, Geoff becomes increasingly preoccupied with his memories of his former girlfriend Katya and Kate becomes obsessively jealous of her long dead rival.
This is something of a chamber piece, centreing almost entirely on the two central characters with contributions from Geraldine James as Kate’s close friend, acting as a confidante device to reveal aspects of Kate’s character and a few other small roles. Both Courtenay and Rampling, highly accomplished actors that they are, are superb. The director’s attention is though primarily on Kate and her growing unease over the re-emergence of Katya in her husband’s life – a situation which for her threatens to negate the 45 years they have shared. Rampling, cool and self possessed as she is initially, makes Kate quite scary in her growing jealousy. Courtenay though seizes his moments in his moving recollections of his relationship with Katya and particularly in the speech he makes at the wedding anniversary party towards the end of the film.
The writing is full of telling and poignant detail, as in the fact that this childless couple have few if any photographs recording their relationship, adding poignancy to a scene where Kate finds slides of George and Katya’s trip to Switzerland and goes through them obsessively. The film also makes telling use of sixties period pop songs recalling Kate and Geoff’s early years together, while the director uses the Norfolk landscape, where the couple live, to good effect in setting the story in context.
It is refreshing to see these two veteran actors in a story in which they are centre screen rather than relegated to the supporting roles so often given to older actors and to have a story of a mature relationship handled with such sensitivity and depth by a young writer/director.