Saturday, March 14, 2020

film review: Hope Gap

Directed by William Nicholson

Written by William Nicholson

ChinoKino score: B-

Review by Allan Tong

Hope Gap captures the end of a 29-year marriage of an English couple, well-played by Annette Benning and Bill Nighy. Their millennial son, played by Josh O'Connor (known for The Crown) is caught in the middle of this painful break-up, playing messenger for both his parents. Nighy's Edward admits their marriage was a doomed mismatch from the start, something he's learned after falling for the parent of one his students at the school where he teaches. We never see the Other Woman, which avoids one cliche, but robs the film of potential conflict. Meanwhile, Benning's Grace stubbornly clings to the hope (or delusion) that their marriage still has life and isn't terminal.

[spoiler alert] Ultimately, Hope Gap becomes Grace's story as she comes to accept that the marriage is over and she must move on. Performances by the leads are solid and authentic. There's true tension and pathos in scenes where Grace and Nighy's Edward split then try to sign the divorce papers. Pacing is respectful of the unfolding drama and allows characters to breathe, but it lags in places where it needs conflict.

That said, there's not a false note in this film, and the dissolution of their union feels authentic and painful. However, Grace's turn of character comes too late and rather suddenly. Blink and you miss it. I preferred if the film had spent more time chronicling Grace's gradual acceptance of her new reality rather than repeating the same notes of her resistance to change. Ultimately, this is an honest drama.

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