Valencia College, Lake Nona Campus

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – An Analysis of Andrew Haigh’s film, 45 Years

The final shot of 45 Years leaves the main character, Kate Mercer, internally devastated as her entire perspective of love has been shattered after forty-five years of marriage. This may be a look into Kate Mercer’s own discovery on love, but it also pushes the viewer to be in her position, leaving the same lingering feeling of ruination. The viewer is now left to question their own perception of love whether they’ve been tested by a relationship similar to Kate’s or not.

What I love so much about films like 45 Years is the ability for a story so small in scope to impact the viewer harder than most modern big-budget films today. The story is just a small glimpse into the forty-five year relationship between Kate and Geoff Mercer, but it pushes such a big emotional idea that it affects the viewer deeper than the story at hand. For what the story lacks in ambition, it makes up for in the quality of philosophical depth. We see Kate and Geoff Mercer’s marriage in peril, which could be dismissed as a one-off disaster that could not relate to the experiences of most audience members, but with skillful direction and story, we’re given a clear look into Kate’s internal struggle and thus a bigger theme.

The film is centered around the struggle of Kate’s marriage and perspective of love, but more specifically the theme can be seen in Kate and Geoff’s wedding song “The Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by The Platters. Returning to Kate’s internal struggle in the last seconds of the film, the lyrics convey and eerie message over Kate’s distressed emotion that the camera hangs onto:

“They asked me how I knew

My true love was true

I of course replied

Something here inside

Can not be denied

They said some day you’ll find

All who love are blind

When your heart’s on fire

You must realize

Smoke gets in your eyes”

What originally came off as a strange choice in a wedding song for Kate and Geoff completes the theme of the film: the ignorance to love itself. Kate is ignorant to the false love in her relationship as she is ignorant to the lyrics portraying a negative view on love. The title, 45 Years, shows how little time matters in the grand scheme of love. Even after forty-five years, the smoke is still in your eyes.