Vita and Virginia
Based on the correspondence between 20th-century literary icons Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton) and Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) and directed and co-written by Chanya Button (her second feature film) alongside acting veteran Eileen Atkins, Vita and Virginia recounts the tremendous and turbulent love between the pair from their meeting to the publication of Woolf’s Orlando – a novel inspired by the titular relationship. There is no denying the historical importance of these figures and the effects their love had on their art, but unfortunately, this dramatisation simplifies everything into a painful and mind-numbing period melodrama that is a disservice to its subject matter.
In order for the film to work, as with all love stories, there needs to be a tangible chemistry between the two leads. And while Arterton and Debicki, who is especially hypnotic as Woolf, do an amicable job in their respective roles, the script offers them very little to do together that demonstrates the idea that they possess any sort of infatuation with each other. What’s worse, though, is that the movie commits the cardinal sin of simply spouting all information in exposition-heavy dialogue from secondary characters instead of allowing audiences the opportunity to delve into the hearts of these two women. Consequently, nothing about the screenplay dares to venture beyond the shallow surface-level dramatics on show. There is some attempt to thread in a commentary of female empowerment, but even that becomes little more than empty words.
The execution of the film is likewise just as superficial. Its structure is shamelessly repetitive, thrusting viewers into the next scene without establishing anything noteworthy. What special effects are utilised make Birdemic look passable. But by far the worst offender of them all is the hilariously out-of-place and overused electronic soundtrack that works against the tone the rest of the feature is trying to set. Very occasionally, however, all these scattered pieces do align correctly to create some genuinely great moments of filmmaking – one short sequence in which the pair watch an eclipse is a particular highlight.
In spite of the promising subject matter and talented main cast, Vita and Virginia is unfortunately nothing more than a surface level and trivial melodrama that is sure to be quickly forgotten.
Vita and Virginia is released in select cinemas on 5th July 2019.
Watch the trailer for Vita and Virginia here: