Here’s another strong entry to add to the small but steady pile of films made for and about adults and adult situations. “45 Years” succeeds at telling a subtle, understated story while getting at the emotional core of its characters.

Kate and Geoff (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) live quietly, comfortably and happily out in the British countryside. There’s a calmness about Kate, in the way she talks, stands and walks, but there’s also a vibrancy. Geoff has definitely slowed down a bit, and now opts to stay home when Kate goes out for long walks with their dog. They’re about a week away from a big party that will celebrate the wedding anniversary of the film’s title.

But, the days leading up to it will prove to be a difficult time. A letter comes for Geoff that says, without much detail, “They found her body, frozen in the ice.”

That would be Katya, the woman he once loved, the woman who died in a glacier-related accident in Switzerland some 50 years earlier, before there was any similarly named Kate in his life. If there was a period of time when Geoff was shattered over the loss of her, it’s not explained here. But, it is hinted that he and Kate never did much talking about her and now he’s so rattled by the news, he lights up a cigarette. That simple act, and the accompanying near silence and body language from Courtenay and Rampling is the first signal that we’re watching a performance by two masters. Though nothing is said, it’s perfectly clear that smoking is something she frowns upon and had long ago convinced him to stop.

It’s also then that, with much difficulty, he says to her, “There’s something I want to tell you.” And so unleashed is the first of many secrets that have been kept over the years.

This first one is about the fact that Geoff and Katya were not married, though everyone, including Kate, believed they were. There are explanations from him, and though Kate seems to accept what he says, there’s also now just a hint of mistrust that she never had before. That revelation also signals the beginning of the film’s exploration of trust and love and loss and memories and more secrets.

This is a very talky film, but not one word is wasted. We learn early on that the couple is child-free. There are no photos of them when they were a young couple, and none have been taken over the years. Why is that, asks Kate. But Geoff changes the subject.

With the anniversary party looming, neither one of them really into it. There are tensions between them. But those soon fritter away, and in one joyous moment, they’re dancing in the living room to the sounds of Lloyd Price singing “Stagger Lee,” an event that leads Geoff to say, “Let’s go upstairs.”

Uncertainty in their relationship starts to form when Geoff makes some mysterious late-night visits to the attic, where Kate discovers he’s dug out old photos of Katya, which leads to a number of wordless scenes in which Kate is seen alone and lost in thought, and others where Geoff is obliviously chattering away, while Kate sits next to him in angry silence.

When Kate makes her own trip up to the attic, the discoveries she makes cause complications to set in. This is a film featuring extraordinary actors portraying very real people living real lives. Though both are terrific, it’s Rampling’s interior performance that really grabs you. She bottles up all of her emotions until she sits down at a piano and lets them pour out through her fingers.

By the time of the big party, you wonder if they’re ever going to be able to pull things together, if there will ever be an openness between them again, if she’ll one day get over the sadness that’s engulfed her?

In the end, it’s easy to know what he’s thinking, but most people will leave the theater worrying and wondering about what’s going on in her head.

Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.

45 YEARS

Written and directed by Andrew Haigh

With Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay

Rated R