THE STORY – A couple’s visit with their son takes a dramatic turn when the father tells him he plans on leaving his mother after 33 years of marriage.
THE CAST – Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor, Aiysha Hart, Ryan McKen, Steven Pacey & Nicholas Burns
THE TEAM – William Nicholson (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 85 Minutes
By Danielle Del Plato
“Hope Gap” is a disheartening look into the trials and tribulations of marriage. Written and directed by William Nicholson, “Hope Gap” follows Grace (Annette Bening) and Edward (Bill Nighy) after their 29-year marriage comes to an end. Focusing on the emotional tribulations of both Edward and Grace, Nicholson paints a family drama that’s as dull and unfulfilling as a cold cup of tea, and even with a powerhouse cast, this cup remains lukewarm.
Adapted from his own play (“The Retreat from Moscow”), “Hope Gap” is based on Nicholson’s own experience with his parent’s divorce. “Hope Gap” begins shortly before the bombshell drops and Edward walks out on Grace, leaving his grown son, Jamie (Josh O’Connor), to tend to his mother’s needs and help her come to terms with her new single life. The film is presented similarly to a stage play; nothing innately makes you scream “wow, cinema!” (unless you’re really into subpar drone shots). Due to its theatrical and (at times) mechanical attributes, it begs to ask: was it necessary to adapt this into a film? With such emotional scenes, this story would be unquestionably more stimulating to see as a play – those scenes acted just a few feet away from the audience.
If anything can redeem this adaptation, it’s the performances from both Nighy and Bening. As always, Bening gives this role her absolute all, crafting a mediocre and rather dull character into something with fire, charm, and conviction (too bad it wasn’t written with much). Differing from his typical roles, Nighy is almost unrecognizable as the sullen but kind Edward. Nighy’s performance is subtle, somber, and composed.
“Hope Gap” is your run-of-the-mill, life after marriage film. It’s brimming with divorce cliches, and after the first act, it’s clear to see where the second and third will land. Nicholson refuses to show either of his characters in a negative light which removes the possibility of interesting conflict. As viewers, we’re thrown into a slew of overused themes that never fully come to fruition. “Hope Gap” is seemingly poetic and nuanced, even filled with beautiful overtures of Bening reciting poetry by Yates, but in actuality, “Hope Gap” is nothing more than pedestrian.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Powerhouse performances from Annette Bening and Bill Nighy
THE BAD – A story better suited to its original medium as a stage play