As Kate (Best Actress nominee Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff Mercer’s 45th anniversary approaches, Geoff (Tom Courtenay) receives a letter that brings to mind a mysterious old flame. “I told you about Katia, didn’t I?” With that, he invites a haunting presence into their seemingly contented lives.
A sense of loss is represented by the absence of photographs of the longtime married couple. Why have they neglected to record their history in pictures? Is it because they were always present so there was no need; or is it because their shared moments weren’t significant enough to record in pictures?
Kate’s inner turmoil is subtly conveyed as she finalizes arrangements for a place to celebrate their life together. The event coordinator muses on how the hall is perfect for an important anniversary, because it has lots of history, “like a happy marriage.”
As Geoff becomes distracted and takes up smoking again, Kate is forced to reexamine her marriage. How well does she really know this man? Is their whole marriage a lie? In the darkened theater, we ruminate on the questions of a longtime marriage. How well can you really know your partner? How much do you want to know about your spouse’s private thoughts? How much can you handle?
Kate becomes increasingly concerned as Geoff’s thoughts drift farther away. Instead of reminiscing on their lives together, he seems to be pondering a life never lived with a lover whose beauty is frozen in time.
Kate is awakened in the night by the sound of her husband digging around in the attic. The threat to their marriage is experienced viscerally in a later scene where she struggles with the attic ladder, their dog anxiously whimpering and barking at her feet.
|Roman broads in Norfolk|
As the day of the party approaches, Kate tells Geoff in no uncertain terms that he has a choice to make. They share a walk on the nature trail and are reminded of his love of birdwatching. She reflects, “It’s funny how we forget the things in life that made us happy.” Indeed, his photography equipment has long been packed away with his old photos in the attic.
Writing this review has been a joy because it inspired me to reflect deeper on the images and their true meanings (even more than I have chosen to relay here.) There are emotional landmines concealed in the autumn woods, waiting to be uncovered.