One thing that can be said in Hope Gap’s favour is that it has a strong sense of place. Filmed in Seaford, Sussex, the stunning white cliffs, quaint village streets, and the dark stone beaches are displayed wonderfully. Hope Gap is, at points, a visually beautiful film; unfortunately, it isn’t a particularly interesting one.
Based on Willian Nicholson’s play The Retreat from Moscow, Hope Gap is centered on Grace (Annette Bening) and Edward (Bill Nighy), a couple who have been married for nearly thirty years. While their son, Jaime (Josh O’Connor), is visiting them for the weekend, Edward suddenly announces that he is leaving Grace for another woman. The film follows the three family members as they attempt to make sense of, and heal from, the dissolution of the marriage.
I kept waiting for this film to offer something beautiful in its substance. Some moment or bit of dialogue that would move me emotionally, but it never happened.
Both Nighy and Bening give it their all, and their performances elevate the film from painfully bland to bland-but-watchable. Bening, in particular, delivers a compelling performance as Grace – despite the uninspired dialogue. Bening gives Grace’s grief life and forces us to understand her suffering, even if the script seems determined to leave her character under-developed and unlikable.
One way that I sometimes judge a film is by considering the images, scenes, sounds, or performances that stick in my mind days, even weeks, after viewing. A few days after watching Hope Gap, I tried to think about what parts of the film had stayed with me and found that only two things had left an impression: the dramatic white cliffs of Seaford, and a clever bit of editing early in the film when a conversation is interrupted suddenly by the whistling of a kettle. Everything else was forgettable.
Unfortunately, there simply isn’t a lot here. The dialogue has all the flavour of cardboard. The plot is tired and cliché. A couple grows apart, the husband meets another woman, and the wife is left to pick up the pieces. Despite the talents of the actors involved, this is a story we’ve heard before, time and time again, and nothing new or compelling has been added. One is left with the distinct impression that Hope Gap is a nicely shot film that simply hasn’t got anything important to say.
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