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Hope Gap (A Movie Review)

HOPE GAP (2019)

Starring Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O'Connor, Aiysha Hart, Ryan McKen, Steven Pacey, Nicholas Burns, Rose Keegan, Nicholas Blane, Sally Rogers, Derren Litten, Jason Lines, Ninette Finch, Joel MacCormack, Anne Bryson, Tim Wildman, Joe Citro, Finn Bennett, Susan Tune, Dawn Batty and Dannielle Woodward.

Screenplay by William Nicholson.

Directed by William Nicholson.

Distributed by Roadside Attractions. 101 minutes. Rated PG-13.

It can be difficult to see how certain couples end up together. It is even tougher to figure out how they stay together.

Take Grace (Annette Bening) and Edward (Bill Nighy), the aging British couple at the heart of Hope Gap. They have been together for decades, have a grown son and have fallen into a routine, but there is no sign of passion or love between them. They feel a certain fondness for each other, and a responsibility for each other’s feelings. But love?

They met by chance years ago, got married because it was the thing to do, but you never get the feeling that they did it because of a passionate desire for each other.

They are very different. Grace is outgoing, talkative, boisterous and wears the pants in the family. Edward is quiet, overly solicitous and would be perfectly happy to just sit reading all day long.

They never fight, not because they don’t have disagreements, merely because they figure what’s the point? They are living alone together.

This is until Edward meets a younger woman. By younger, I mean in her late-40s, early 50s – he is not trading up to a beautiful trophy wife due to some mid-life crisis. But the new woman understands him and makes him feel things his wife never did.

Grace, who honestly doesn’t necessarily miss him all that much, still she refuses to let him go because that would mean that her relationship, and thus her life, was a failure. Edward wasn’t the perfect man, but he was hers, and she isn’t going to give him up without a fight.

Thrust into this sad toxic situation is their grown son Jamie (Josh O’Connor), who is put in the uncomfortable position of mediating some sort of peace between his parents – who he had always felt were happy together – even though he has his own problems to navigate in life. He hates being put in the middle, trying to be there for both parents even as they use him as a pawn in their private little war.

“This is a murder, Jamie,” Grace tells Jamie. “Just because there’s no blood, don’t think it’s not a murder. Marriages don’t bleed but it’s still murder.”

Hope Gap is based on a Tony-nominated play by called The Retreat from Moscow by writer/director William Nicholson, who as a filmmaker is better known for much larger-scale entertainments like Gladiator, Les Miserables and First Knight. And, honestly, despite some breathtaking scenery of the British shore town where Grace and Edward live, the story probably would work better as a play.

Based loosely on the dissolution of Nicholson’s own parents’ breakup, Hope Gap has an overwhelming sense of claustrophobic sorrow, although it does end on a vaguely positive note.

The acting, by Bening, Nighy and O’Connor is quite fine. (Very few actors make more than token appearances in this basically three-person story.) The scenery is lovely. A cute dog appears in the middle of the movie (though Grace spitefully names the puppy Edward.).

And, yet, Hope Gap is not easy or enjoyable viewing. It tells a human, somewhat depressing story that is sadly all too common in the world. Yet, I’m not sure how many of us would want to watch it, just like we definitely would not want to live it.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: March 8, 2020.

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