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there must be better ways to mark a wedding annivesary than to see a film about a wedding anniversary

My wife is desperate to see 45 Years, a film about a couple who are a week away from their 45th wedding anniversary. We are, coincidentally, a week away from our 23rd wedding anniversary. It’s a time, as far as I’m concerned, for discouraging all forms of reflection.


“If you don’t want to come, I’ll go by myself,” my wife says.


“No, I’ll come,” I say. “Can we make it an early evening screening though? Because I’m…”


“Early evening? Are you mad? Let’s go now. We can have lunch first.”


“Like a date?” I say.


Tim Dowling 5 Sept


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We go to a pizza restaurant where we used to take the children when they were small. It’s been redecorated in a less child-friendly style, and is empty apart from a few elderly couples.


“It’s the bank holiday, innit,” I say, trying to dodge my own reflection in the mirrored wall.


“Maybe,” my wife says.


“If there’s time before the film,” I say, “I’d like to go over the road to buy some kind of drain unblocking chemical.”


“We’ve got nothing but time,” my wife says.


“Something corrosive, with many warnings,” I say.


“More beer?” she says.


At the DIY shop over the road, my wife finds me crouched in the plumbing aisle. “Hurry up,” she says. “We’re going to miss the start.”


“You said I had time,” I say. “Nothing but time.”


“I didn’t know you were going to spend 20 minutes deliberating over drain cleaner,” she says.


“Yes, you did.”


In lobby of the cinema, my wife passes a woman who is holding a large glass of wine. “That’s what I want,” she says, pointing.


“Are you sure?” I say. “Because we’ve already…”


“Do you want one?”




From the back of the cinema, we see a sea of white heads. My wife stops to stare, and I know what she’s thinking: first, that we’re the youngest in the room; second, not that much younger. “It’s the early screening,” I say. “That’s why.”


45 Years, it transpires, is the bleakest assessment of long-term monogamy ever captured on film, set in flat, permanently twilit Norfolk. A tragic event from the past (Tom Courtenay’s first girlfriend fell into a crevasse and died) is suddenly brought to the fore (her perfectly preserved remains have been found – thanks a bunch, global warming), causing Charlotte Rampling to reconsider everything about their marriage. Her face, by the end, conveys a depthless horror. It is not a date movie.


At several points I consider nudging my wife, or even clasping her hand, to break the spell, but I don’t dare. It’s the kind of thing Courtenay keeps doing on screen, and it’s not working for him. Only when the lights come up do I risk looking into my wife’s eyes. They convey a depthless horror. “Oh my God!” she hisses. “I fell asleep!”


“Did you?” I say. “For how long?”


“I woke up in the middle of the party,” she says. “What happened?”


I hold my explanation until we’re outside. “What’s the last bleak thing you remember?” I say. “Did you see her in the attic?”


“I don’t think so,” my wife says.


“Yeah, well, she goes into the attic and finds a slide projector, all set up.”


“I missed all that,” she says. “I just saw her face at the end.”


My reconstruction is so painstakingly detailed that it takes us right to our front door. “So the take-home message,” I conclue, reaching for my keys, “is that everything will be fine.”


“Really?” my wife says.


“Love conquers all, blah blah blah.”


“But her face,” she says.


“And also, never move to the country.”

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