45 Years (Andrew Haigh, 2015). Andrew Haigh’s wise, serious-minded film is like one of those New Yorker short stories that grows grimmer by the paragraph as it details internalized heartbreak. I typed out that sentence right before my background research reminded me that the film is indeed adapted from a piece of short fiction, David Constantine’s “In Another Country.” I don’t think that work appeared in the pages of Condé Nast’s flagship title, but I’ll let the comparison stand. Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are planning a party for their forty-fifth wedding anniversary when a part of Geoff’s personal history steps out from behind a dusty veil due to a dispatch that arrives in the morning post. With painstaking attention, Haigh’s film considers the way trust and connection can erode with feelings are withheld. At times, 45 Years is maybe too painstaking, unfolding with the sort of quiet steadiness that can prompt viewers to complain that art house movies are dull. I also think it comes close to that dreaded descriptor, but it’s mostly admirable in its tense restraint. Rampling is formidable in her highly contained performance.
Walking and Talking (Nicole Holofcener, 1996). The feature directorial debut of Nicole Holofcener is vividly alive with her distinctive voice and crackling humor. The plot is loose as can be, but the movie is rich with smartly observed interactions between the characters that tell a profound story. Amelia (Catherine Keener) goes into a crisis of addled dismay when her longtime friend Laura (Anne Heche) gets engaged to her boyfriend, Frank (Todd Field). The movie traces the different comically forlorn expressions of Amelia’s twenty-something uncertainty, including a fling with an odd but sweet video store clerk (Kevin Corrigan). Walking and Talking is a charming, funny slice-of-young-life movie that was a staple of emerging indie filmmakers in the mid–nineteen-nineties. Holofcener’s instinctual truthfulness and flinty dialogue makes it one of the very best examples of the highly specialized subgenre. The whole cast is great, endearingly free-spirited in their performances. That includes Liev Schreiber, who plays Amelia’s ex with an ease that he rarely displayed on film again.
Losing Ground (Kathleen Collins, 1982). The sole feature from director Kathleen Collins is emotionally cutting and playfully experimental, reflecting the freedom that came when operating in an era of independent filmmaking where there were no expectations of commercial possibility. At the center of Losing Ground is the precarious marriage of Sara (Seret Scott), a philosophy professor, and Victor (Bill Gunn), an artist. Seeking new inspiration for his art, Victor cajoles Sara into renting a summer house well outside the city, and she eventually retaliates for this and other infractions by returning to her college to star in a student film. Collins smart folds her narrative in on itself, compensating for some of the limited-take amateurishness of the acting with crafty scene-setting and prickly insights. Understandably rough, Losing Ground is abundant in cinematic promise that went sadly unfulfilled, partially because of deeply embedded industry prejudice against Black women filmmaker and partially because she died just a few years later, felled by breast cancer at the age of forty-six.