With Marriage Story prominent on the festival circuit, LFF’s other divorce drama, Hope Gap, threatens to be overshadowed. Sadly, it’s probably for the best. It’s a muddled film; a painful little knot with moments of keen observation linked awkwardly together by a fumbled, too on-the-nose script, and oddly flat tone.
“That’s the thing about sadness. After a while, it stops being interesting.” Hope Gap is full of little quoteables like this, particularly in the mouth of Annette Bening’s Grace. The decision to give Bening a British accent is in some ways brave and thoughtful; her compulsive spilling of every emotion is a role a lazier writer-director might have deliberately made American. Unfortunately it also hampers Bening’s performance. Her measured voice is at odds with Grace’s flamboyant fits of temper and the whole sounding disarmingly like a two-hour impression of Emma Thompson.
Bill Nighy’s Edward is perfect in the taut scenes where he finally finds the words to express his unhappiness in their failed marriage. He also does a valiant job with the exposition forced on him. When their son Jamie (Josh O’Connor) makes a throwaway remark about not using cash – “it’s all contactless nowadays” – Edward repeats the line back and carefully joins the dots for the audience in case they miss a clever metaphor.
It’s that performative note that scuppers what can be, at times, a very moving film. It’s like the anti-Joanna Hogg; if her films are all silences where words might be, Hope Gap is all words we’re unlikely to ever say.
There’s real promise in Hope Gap‘s premise of one person flinging out truths without being able to accept reality against another treating deliberate choices like the ineffable winds of fate. Its heart is in the right place – it’s only the authentic beat that’s lacking.
CAST: Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor, Aiysha Hart
DIRECTOR: William Nicholson
WRITER: William Nicholson
SYNOPSIS: A couple’s 29-year marriage comes to an abrupt end when the husband (Nighy) announces he’s leaving.