45 YEARS: 4 STARS

Can you ever really know a person?

That is the question rattling around Kate Mercer’s (Charlotte Rampling) head as her forty-fifth wedding anniversary to Geoff (Tom Courtenay) looms on the horizon.

In retirement the couple have a comfortable life. He putters and reads, she makes arrangements for their anniversary bash. Their quiet, cozy life is disturbed when a letter arrives for Geoff with disturbing news; the body of Katya, his first love, has been discovered in the Swiss Alps, frozen and preserved, after falling to her death nearly five decades before.

In the days leading up to the celebration of their relationship Kate begins to understand the depth of Geoff’s feelings for his long-ago love, leading to distrust and a re-examination of her "happy" marriage."

Director Andrew Haigh knows this is an actor’s movie and puts Rampling and Courtenay front and centre, showcasing them with unfussy and simple presentation.

There is no soundtrack to set the scene or flashy editing to entertain your eye, just powerfully subtle performances. Rampling never overstates her devastation. Instead, she allows her nuanced facial expressions to speak volumes, filling in the unspoken parts of the story with tiny but effective looks and actions. It is the kind of introspective work that the big screen was invented to display.

"45 Years" is a master class in acting. It’s a mature story brought to life by two remarkable actors who aren’t afraid to trust the story’s emotional core and take the time to allow it to burrow deep into the viewer’s intellect and more importantly, heart.