Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 40 minutes, Director – William Nicholson
After almost thirty years of marriage Edward (Bill Nighy) decides that he is unhappy and decides to leave his wife, Grace (Annette Bening), inviting their son (Josh O’Connor) round to hopefully lower the impact of his actions.
“Just because there’s no blood it doesn’t mean it’s not a murder” spits Grace (Annette Bening), slouched in her chair in a crumpled pile of loss and despair. She’s still hurt by her the decision of her husband, Edward (Bill Nighy), to walk out and leave her for another woman on their 29th wedding anniversary. Initially when she’s told of this Grace remains somewhat hopeful. Although distraught she still sees a life with her husband, trying to get him to stay, surely everything can’t go out the door. However, as things become more real her pleads become more and more desperate. Surely 29 years haven’t just gone to waste? “You mustn’t take it all, you’ll kill me” she begs as her paradise, much like her happiness, begins to crumble around her.
The couple live in Seaford, a small, quiet coastal town filled with memories for them both. Yet, while for Grace it represents her calm contented life and nature for Edward it displays a silent emptiness. For almost three decades he’s stood around unhappy, believing he’s never had a proper connection to his wife. All of this comes to his realisation when he meets another woman, the mother of one of his school students. While Bening’s performance tends to fluctuate Nighy’s remains the same throughout much of the film. He’s serious and restrained, avoiding major displays of emotion. He says things as he sees them and shows his stresses through this way, while Grace’s stresses are shown through her gradual cracking. Although one of the questions throughout the film is what will this breaking out reveal? Will it be a more fragile, emotional figure, or will it be someone who finds the strength to move on and overcome such experiences, as some of the figures in the poetry that she compiles manage to do.
While all of this is happening the film spends little time with Grace and Edward’s son Jamie (Josh O’Connor). Edward invites Jamie round when he decides to walk out in the hope that his presence will lower his mother’s response to the event. The impact on Jamie is little dwelled upon. He seems to be more there as a messenger between his parents as they begin to feud. The emotional connection and understanding isn’t with him as much due to the lack of detail within his character, while there isn’t a great deal of detail and substance within the film as a whole, limiting the possible connection with each of the three primary characters, affecting O’Connor the most – despite still giving a fine performance.
Writer-director William Nicholson’s screenplay isn’t as detailed or in-depth as some of his previous works, which include the likes of Les Misérables, Breathe and the Oscar nominated screenplays for Gladiator and Shadowlands. As a whole Hope Gap is a relatively simple film. While making the film unfortunately quickly forgettable for the time it’s on it serves as something perfectly fine. While in some respects it could be viewed that the simple nature of the film is its downfall in others it could be seen as a strength. While it does mean that it feels somewhat lacking, like we’ve seen the film a handful of times before and it does sometimes create a barrier for connecting with the film and its characters it can also be viewed as something that does back the characters up. Adding to their natural feel and makes the feeling of their separation more real. Hope Gap covers the traditional basics of a divorce drama with a fairly slow pace, but getting out just before things go on for too long; with not a great deal to add. A feeling that is established early on and is continued throughout the run-time of the piece.
Hope Gap is a relatively simple, unforced, middle of the road divorce drama, perhaps more for the silver screen audience than anyone else, and it’ll likely be a hit with them. The performances are fine, and there are some moments of sharpness that bring the viewer in, but for the most part the simple, basic nature of the piece is its biggest downfall.