“Hope Gap” (M) *** and a half
FROM filmmaker William Nicholson comes this controlled observation of the break-down of a long-standing marriage.
It’s essentially a two-hander performed with style, grace and a screenplay that pulls no punches. After 29 years of marriage, Edward (Bill Nighy) tells Grace (Annette Bening) that he plans to move out of the family home in the small English town of Seaford.
Here are two actors whose provenance is unshakeable. Bill Nighy could turn reading a page of the phone book into a special experience. His portrayal here of a high-school history teacher who comes home each night to arrange the evening meal is controlled, confident of Edward’s reason, unshakeable in its finality.
But it is Bening as Grace who steals the film, desolate, unable to understand where she might have gone wrong, if indeed she has gone wrong. Grace has been spending her days compiling an anthology. Her delivery of sadness, anger, inability to accept that Edward has found another woman to be more comforting (sex apparently plays no part in his decision) is brilliant.
Grace and Edward’s 25-year-old son Jamie (Josh O’Connor) in London is bewildered when he learns of Edward’s intention. His efforts to bring about reconciliation don’t work.
Apparently, writer/director Nicholson found the seed of the film’s story in the collapse of his own parents’ marriage after 33 years. It resonated in me – I have travelled that road and know the confusion that it creates. Seeing it so sensitively delineated in the film four decades later still has power to disturb me.
At all cinemas