Thursday, May 7, 2020

Movie with Abe: Hope Gap

Hope Gap
Directed by William Nicholson
Released March 6, 2020

Marriage isn’t always easy. Two people often meet when they’re relatively young, fall in love, and plan to spend their lives together. There are many events and changes people can’t foresee, and imagining how things will be when bodies start getting older and new problems emerge is near impossible. Therapy and individual outlets for decompression can be helpful, but the rate of divorce still remains high since, in the end, many couples can’t work through their problems. Separations can be very painful, and it’s rare that both parties are on the same page about the outcome they want to achieve.

Grace (Annette Bening) and Edward (Bill Nighy) live a quiet, unexciting life, exchanging light conversation and occasionally participating in volatile fights that end with Grace exploding and Edward walking away. Edward encourages their son, Jamie (Josh O’Connor), to come visit, something he knows will make Grace happy. His motivations, however, aren’t to benefit her, but instead to make sure someone is there to comfort Grace after he announces that he has met someone else and he is leaving. Jamie is forced to play referee when Edward refuses to even speak with his wife, who is not at all happy with her husband’s unwillingness to fight for their marriage.

It’s no surprise that this film’s first incarnation was as a play, “The Retreat from Moscow,” staged in England in 1999 and written by William Nicholson, who directed and wrote this feature film adaptation, which features only its three main players in most of its scenes. The film’s title refers to a particular place that holds significance for Grace and Edward, reminding them of better times, but it’s just as much an idea as it is a physical space. The conversations – and especially the silence in between them – are what matter most in this analysis of the breakdown of a relationship. Grace is well aware that she and Edward have problems, but she would never think of leaving, which makes Edward’s decision to do so without even trying to fix what is broken all the more hurtful. Edward has clearly made up his mind, and Jamie is caught in the middle, aware that he needs to support his mother and that he can’t do anything to convince his father to talk to her.

The three leads are critical to the effectiveness of this film. Bening puts on a British accent to give Grace a reserved demeanor, far from shrill but empathic in the things she says and the poetry she frequently references. Nighy, often a dryly comedic actor, is deadly serious as someone who has extracted himself from a situation that his wife and son both still believe him to be in. O’Connor, a standout performer from season three of “The Crown,” balances the energies of his onscreen parents to create a willful adult who might know what he wants but is also certain of his inability to see it realized. This is a quiet, somber story that is made most powerful by the few things its characters do say and the weight each sentiment carries after so many years spent together.


No comments: