— by Jeff Schultz
Bleak, but not airless, thanks to a “Greek chorus” of Hardy-esque landscapes, suggesting eternal Nature’s obliviousness to the small dramas of domestic life. That’s the beauty of the film —but there’s a problem with the smallness of the drama. The camerawork may find you pulling on a sweater, with its shots of the cold, wet, and sometimes stormy Norfolk countryside. But it also marvelously illuminates character, especially Charlotte Rampling as the wife. Although older now, Rampling is as arresting to look at as ever, all sculptural cheekbones and lithe body. But as her world crumbles in the course of a week, watch her (with the help of DP Lol Crawley) externalize despair, watch as she seems to just give up. The acting — Rampling and her equal, Tom Courtenay — is perfection; you couldn’t ask any more of these performances. So why was I less sympathetic than I think I was supposed to feel by Rampling’s inability to move on? The screenplay has psychological logic on its side: in the movie, the wife learns things she never knew about her husband’s previous girlfriend, including (one of two big reveals) that the girl was the love of his life. And this on the week of their 45th anniversary party. At the end of the movie, Rampling is still in a state of shock, excruciatingly having to appear as though she’s enjoying herself at the party, including a dance with her husband that ends with an angry gesture. She cannot forgive him, though he’s done nothing wrong. I guess that’s the point, the tragedy of the situation. But I’d love to know if a year (or two, or five) later, the couple had managed to reach an accommodation.