The Oscar nominee wrestles with an ill-fitting British accent playing a woman whose life crumbles after her husband foliages for another woman
As well-trodden as the subject might be, there remains something horribly urging about watching the end of a wedlock play out on screen, the uneasy little details of what happens when someone swaps to I Don’t proving hard to resist. In Hope Gap, Oscar-nominated screenwriter William Nicholson’s second film as administrator, we’re given an all-too-familiar set-up( husband tells long-serving wife that he’s leaving her for a younger gal) and the stage is set for blistering wrangles, tangled untangling and two awards-aiming recitals. But despite the clear startling possible of the wounds of divorce, proved day and time again by films straying from An Unmarried Woman to this Oscar season’s Marriage Story, Nicholson fails to give his movie the specific characteristics and feeling degree required to make it seem required. We’ve been here before and nothing in the film’s 100 -minute length rightfully justifies why we’re back here again.
In the coastal town of Seaford, Grace( Annette Bening) and Edward( Bill Nighy) share a modest life, a comfortably learned dynamic give firmly, perhaps boringly, in place after 33 years together. Grace is gregarious and needy, Edward earmarked and serious, and while her lust for more tendernes and vocal reassurances might motive mild strain, her pleas have become part of the write they’re both used to playing out day in day out, year after year. But when Edward suggests their lad Jamie( God’s Own Country’s Josh O’Connor) to return for the weekend, it soon becomes clear that something is brewing. Grace’s paranoia over Edward’s paucity of see contact and nervousness around her is suddenly, abruptly apologized where reference is announces that he’s leaving her for another woman.
While there’s a nervy propulsion behind these initial situations, especially during Edward’s unpleasant pre-dump prep, the breakup happens so soon into the film that we’re left scratching our principals over what’s to come next. It turns out the answer is largely nothing and in place of a story, there’s a tedious hertz of crying, beach-walking and moping that have been able to felt less plodding if we had more investment in the couple at its centre. Their relationship is coated with recognisably wide-reaching strokings( the nagging bride and oppressed spouse) and despite two inarguably achieved performers, there’s a quibbling undo. Nighy’s well-meaning, if unacceptably cowardly, husband is played with an changing ingenuity but a miscast Bening contends to accord him. She’s restrained with an ill-fitting British accent she’s never truly comfy with and so much of her action is obscured by her struggle to sound believable as a Brit that little room is left for her to seem plausible as a person. It’s eventually as awkward for her as it is for us.
There are hints of revelation along the way, particularly in how Grace compares a divorce to a slaughter and how spurned maids are belittled in comparison with widows, but it’s mostly skin-deep. Introducing their lad as a key component is an interesting move but it’s never one that really pays off and Nicholson’s attempts to capture twentysomething life border on embarrassing. There’s the curious excursion into the city and a handful of supporting people but it’s mostly a three-hander in a limited number of locations. Aware of how stagey this might seem, Nicholson and cinematographer Anna Valdez-Hanks do offer up some stunning coastal landscapes but is compatible with a swelling tally, we’re left imploring a narrative of equal heavines and as destroying as Grace’s predicament is, the pathos never comes. Divorce is distressing but Hope Gap isn’t damn near pain enough.
Hope Gap is showing at the Toronto film festival.