4th October 2019 6.00pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
4th October 2019 6.30pm at Odeon Leicester Square
5th October 2019 1.50pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
Hope Gap is a film about mourning, but there is no hearse, coffin or wreath. In this poetic exploration of marital collapse, William Nicholson equates the end of life (perhaps a little indelicately) with the end of love. And yet, it’s a little like attending the funeral of a person you didn’t really know: it’s sad, but the pain is distant and fleeting.
Here lies the marriage of Grace (Annette Bening) and Edward (Bill Nighy), beloved parents of Jamie (Josh O’Connor). But the grave hasn’t yet gone cold – there is rage, and there is pain. Jamie acts as the mediator between his grieving mother and his guilt-stricken father, but his own relationship struggles are a reminder of how silence breeds silence down through the generations, how gaps echo from parents to their children.
Academy Award nominee Bening’s questionable British accent makes her portrayal a little hard to get your teeth into. Nonetheless, it’s a difficult task to sum up a marriage in such a short space of time, and there is a depth to her fiery temper and strong will that succinctly exposes the tension born from 30 years of one-way communication. Nighy gives less away: his character has curled in on himself, afraid to reveal who he truly is. But sadly, this means that the breaking point comes before we can find out. Entering the story so soon before the tragedy strikes, we have little insight into how a man who has bitten his tongue for 30 years could suddenly embark on a path of self-preservation at the cost of his own wife. Having said this, neither character falls into the straight-forward category of victim or villain – they are flawed, fallible and curiously complex – which makes it doubly disappointing that there is not enough grounding in their relationship to invest the audience fully in their story. This is well-trodden territory, and though O’Connor excels himself yet again, this time in the role of the son who slowly becomes aware of his own selfishness, even his added perspective is not enough to lift the picture to new ground.
This is not to say the feature isn’t poignant in all the right places. In the titular cove, rockpools surface during the low tides and wonders emerge. Even as the waves take everything away, small treasures remain. Shots of the coast abound, the small town of Seaford providing a fittingly atmospheric backdrop. The screenplay is as poetic as the cinematography, ripe with imagery and metaphor. Unfortunately, this undermines the feature’s naturalistic approach – there are points at which a look would suffice, rather than an overly indulgent literary monologue coming in the midst of an impassioned argument. The speeches are eloquently written, but they get in the way of raw emotion. By the end of the film, the arguments sound a little tired and rehearsed.
The Hope Gap is a pleasantly presented tale that hits all the key beats, but it’s doesn’t bring anything new to the table. And with a cast like that, we are craving something more.
Hope Gap does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.