- Colin Fraser
THREE AND A HALF STARS After twenty nine years, Edward decides he's finally had enough of his ordinary marriage, and takes action.
Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O'Connor
DRAMA UK #HOPEGAP
“Fine isn’t the same as happy,” Grace admonishes her son, concerned that his lack of romantic involvement is stunting his emotional growth. “We’re happy, aren’t we Edward?” she says, turning to her husband. “Yes, we’re fine,” he replies awkwardly. It’s a telling exchange in this finely tuned drama about honesty within a crumbling marriage.
Edward has summoned Jamie (Josh O’Connor) to the seaside home for news which will upend his melancholy family. After 29 years, he’s leaving his wife. Based on writer / director William Nicholson’s 1989 play, there’s nothing especially new about this exploration of divorce. What distinguishes it is Nicholson’s light touch and the deft performance of its leads. There’s no show-boating as they get down to the ordinary, unpleasant task of facing reality and, finally, being honest with each another.
Fans of Bening or Nighy are in for a treat as HOPE GAP charts the family implosion, a tragedy common to many, with intelligence and dignity. They mine the complexities inherent in Nicholson’s script: from Edward’s mumbling ineffectualness through to Grace’s shock at no longer being in control of her husband. The range of emotional responses are fit for opera but both resist the temptation to overcook their scenes, preferring to reveal the waves of anger and crushing despondency in muted, realistic tones. It’s a better film for it.
Jamie is required to mediate but is powerless to do so, realising that he no longer knows these people who used to be his parents. Fearing he’s failed his mother, and becoming his father, Jamie’s viewpoint is especially poignant.
HOPE GAP isn’t an exposé about why this or any marriage comes crashing down. That mystery remains unanswered; it’s not the fault of Grace or Edward, or Jamie. Perhaps it’s some combination of all three, or none at all.