Hope Gap


She strolls while he snores by the seashore.

(2019) Drama (Roadside Attractions/Screen Media) Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor, Alysha Hart, Kadrolsha Ona Carole, Nicholas Burns, Rose Keegan, Ryan McKen, Nicholas Blane, Ninette Finch, Derren Litten, Sally Rogers, Steven Pacey, Joel MacCormack, Jason Lines, Finn Bennett, Anne Bryson, Tim Wildman, Susan Tune, Joe Citro, Dannielle Woodward. Directed by William Nicholson

 

Not every marriage is eternal. Some come to an end prematurely; some after a short amount of time as the couple discovers that marriage was a terrible idea for the two of them, while others occur after years of marriage.

Grace (Bening) and Edward (Nighy) are days away from their 29th anniversary. Outwardly, they seem as comfortable together as two old shoes, but there are cracks showing. Edward is distracted, almost shut down; he barely acknowledges Grace. She badgers him, trying to get some sort of reaction from him. She senses something is wrong, but can’t fathom what it is.

Edward manages to coax their adult son Jamie (O’Connor) to their seaside home in Sussex from London. However, he has an ulterior motive; he tells Jamie that he has fallen in love with another woman and is leaving Grace. At first, Jamie is dumbstruck; he can’t believe it. But eventually he is convinced that Edward means to go through with it. And so Edward does.

Grace still loves Edward and is sure that this is just a phase, and that he will soon come to his senses and come home, but it becomes apparent that Edward is gone for good. She gets alternately despondent, angry and bitter. Jamie is caught in the middle, serving as mediator and messenger, soon realizing that he is slowly developing the same malaise that overtook his father, while as he gets to see his mother as a person rather than just a parent, understands that he never really knew her at all.

Movies about divorce are not uncommon, and often prove to be fodder for some compelling films (i.e. Kramer vs. Kramer, An Unmarried Woman, last year’s Marriage Story). Some critics have complained that there isn’t a lot here that’s original, which I suppose has some merit until you realize that this is based on the divorce of writer/director Nicholson’s parents. I imagine it seemed terribly original to him.

What the rest of us are left with are a quest for insight; how would we handle this? Would we ever do something like this to our partner? Could someone who seemingly have the perfect marriage just watch it collapse around them? For this kind of movie to work it has to be relatable; it has to have a frame of reference that makes it compelling to the viewer. I don’t know that the insights raised here are going to resonate deeply with everyone.

That’s where some wonderful performances come in. In Bening and Nighy, we have two often underrated pros who are both about as good as anyone in the business. Nighy plays Edward as the very definition of “doddering,” he seems lost in his own home, a schoolteacher who is obsessed with historic events that happened over two centuries ago (Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow) and seems to be more in tune with the past than he is present.

I often forget how good Bening is until I see her latest film, and then I fall in love with her (as an actress) all over again. Despite a kind of dodgy British accent, she nonetheless nails her role here, giving Grace depth and edge. Often, she is almost intolerable to be around; she is confrontational, occasionally bitchy and uncompromising but it becomes clear that she is as lost in her own way as Edward is. Bening can convey more with a single glance than most actors can with pages of dialogue.

On top of the terrific performances there is some lovely cinematography of windswept beaches and the charming coastal village of Seaford where this was filmed. American audiences, though, may find it ponderous and slow-moving, the curse of the short-attention-span-afflicted Yank. In our defense, we watched too many music videos and video games growing up to accumulate the patience to, say, read a book, let alone watch a movie that requires some concentration as well as some commitment. But, sad for us Americans, the best films almost always require both.

REASONS TO SEE: Bening and Nighy are both masters of their craft.
REASONS TO AVOID: Slow and ponderous.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some brief profanity as well as adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film is based on and expanded upon Nicholson’s play The Retreat from Moscow which in turn is based on his parents’ own divorce.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/13/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 62% positive reviews, Metacritic: 58/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: 45 Years
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
The Mentor

New Releases for the Week of March 13, 2020


BLOODSHOT

(Columbia) Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Elza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Talulah Riley, Alex Hernandez, Lamome Morris. Directed by Dave Wilson

When a soldier is killed in action, he is brought back to life using nanotechnology. Not only is his body improved and he is made virtually unkillable, he discovers that the corporation in charge has been tampering with his mind and memories as well. How can he fight back when he can’t be certain what’s real and what’s implanted in his memory?

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Superhero
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence, some suggestive material, and language)

Big Time Adolescence

(NEON) Pete Davidson, Griffin Gluck, Sydney Sweeney, Jon Cryer. A high school kid tries to navigate life with the aid of a college dropout friend who shows him all the wrong decisions; it will remain for his dad to try and clean up the mess and rein in his son’s bad habits.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Cinematique of Daytona
Rating: R (for drug content, alcohol use, pervasive language, and sexual references – all involving teens)

Cruel Peter

(Vertical) Henry Douthwaite, Rosie Fellner, Terrence Booth, Claudio Castrogiovanni. A century after a cruel and vicious bully is killed in an act of revenge, an archaeologist and his daughter, grieving for his wife (her mother), come to the scene of the crime. The daughter’s attempts to contact her deceased mother result in her possession by the spirit of the brutal bully. Her father now msut save her from a curse that he has no idea how to break.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

Extra Ordinary

(Good Deed) Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Claudia O’Doherty. A small-town driving instructor with the power to communicate with the other side faces a demonic plot by a has-been rock star to make a deal with the devil and send an innocent soul to hell. Aided by the girl’s father, she will take on some unusual paranormal activities if she is to save the soul – and the world, or at least the immediate community.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: R (for language, sexual content and some horror violence)

Hope Gap

(Roadside Attractions/Screen Media) Bill Nighy, Annette Bening, Josh O’Connor, Alysha Hart. A couple’s visit to their son takes an unexpected turn with the father confides that he is leaving his wife of 29 years for another. She is left to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life, while the son deals with the emotional fallout.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Old Mill Playhouse, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG (for some thematic elements and brief strong language)

The Hunt

(Blumhouse/Universal) Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank. A group of people wake up in a clearing not knowing how they got there or why they’re there. They are there, as it turns out, to be hunted by a group of “global elites” but one woman who knows the Hunt better than they do is going to turn around the game on her captors. The movie was delayed from last year due to a series of shootings that hit too close to home; the movie is also notable in that President Trump decried it without having seen it.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong blood violence, and language throughout)

The Postcard Killings

(RJLE) Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Famke Janssen, Cush Jumbo, Denis O’Hare  A New York detective grieves for his wife and daughter who were brutally murdered in London. He travels to the UK and discovers that the killings were one of a series of similar crimes, each one preceded by a postcard sent to a local journalist. He must race against time to stop the killings and get justice for his family.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Suspense
Now Playing: Old Mill Playhouse
Rating: NR

Swallow

(IFC Midnight) Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche. A beautiful housewife seems to have everything – a wealthy husband, a supportive family, a beautiful house and a baby on the way. However, the high expectations of her husband and his family cause her to manifest her stress by swallowing objects that are increasingly dangerous.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Barnstorm Theater
Rating: R (for brief sexuality/nudity)

Tuscaloosa

(Cinedigm) Devon Bostick, Natalia Dyer, Tate Donovan, Marchant Davis. In Alabama circa 1972, a young man falls for a patient at his father’s mental hospital, while his best friend gets involved in the civil rights movement which doesn’t sit well with the powerful civic leaders of Tuscaloosa.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Barnstorm Theater
Rating: NR

Wendy

(Searchlight) Yashua Mack, Devin France, Gage Naquin, Gavin Naquin. A re-imagining of the Peter Pan story told through the eyes of Wendy Darling and through the inventive mind of Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Fantasy
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for brief violent/bloody images)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Angrezi Medium
I Still Believe

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

Angrezi Medium
Bacurau
Balloon
Chal Mera Putt 2
I Still Believe
Straight Up – Canceled

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Angrezi Medium
Block Z
Corpus Christi
I Still Believe

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Angrezi Medium
I Still Believe

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Bacurau
Big Time Adolescence
Bloodshot
Extra Ordinary
The Hunt
Swallow

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Miami Film Festival, Miami FL

Bridgend


Deceptive beauty.

Deceptive beauty.

(2015) Drama (Kimstim) Hannah Murray, Josh O’Connor, Adrian Rawlins, Patricia Potter, Nia Roberts, Steven Washington, Scott Arthur, Aled Llyr Thomas, Elinor Cawley, Jamie Burch, Mark Charles Williams, Adam Byard, Natasha Denby, Leona Vaughan, Liam Dascombe, Josh Green, Rachel Isaac, Phil Howe, Martin Troakes, Jane Davies, Rob Page, Judith Lewis. Directed by Jeppe Rønde

Florida Film Festival 2016

When a teenager dies, it’s a tragedy. With their whole life ahead of them cut short, it’s devastating to their family and their friends. When a teen takes their own life, it can feel even more tragic. Those left behind can feel like they’ve failed somehow. But what happens when teens kill themselves in droves?

That’s what really happened in Bridgend County in Wales. Starting in 2009 and through 2013, more than 75 teens took their own lives – most by hanging – without leaving a suicide note. To this day, what prompted these mass suicides remains a mystery. There was an excellent documentary in 2013 about the case but this is a fictionalized look at the affair.

Sara (Murray – fans might recognize her from Game of Thrones) and her policeman dad Dave (Washington) who is widowed have moved from Bristol to Bridgend to start a new life. As a policeman, Dave is investigating a rash of teen suicides. At first, Sara doesn’t really feel like she fits in with the working class kids in town but her beauty and compassion catch the eye of Laurel (Cawley) who invites her to the local reservoir to hang out with a group of kids, led by co-alphas Jamie (O’Connor) and Thomas (Arthur).

As Sara gets more involved with the group, her father begins to get terrified. Sara is already at that age where she’s distancing herself from her dad, and drifts closer to the disaffected teens and further from her father. And as her friends begin to die off one by one, her romance with Jamie takes on a more intense tone.

Speaking of tone, that’s one thing this movie has plenty of. Cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jønck films things through a blue filter, underlighting interior shots to give things a more menacing and darker look. The blue serves to give the movie an overall depressing feel. That’s sight; as for sound, Mondkopf, an artist specializing in electronic trance, gives the score a dreary electro feel, instilling a sense of foreboding throughout.

There are two ways a movie like this can be made palatable; one is to give insight as to why a group of teenagers would all fall into lockstep and kill themselves. To be honest, Rønde doesn’t really address this. There are all sorts of theories as to why the real kids did this and to be fair, I can imagine that the filmmaker didn’t want to tread on the graves of the dead by putting motivations that weren’t necessarily there. You don’t get a sense that there was any peer pressure going on, only that these kids were essentially unhappy.

Secondly, the characters could be interesting people that you care about what happens to them, but again, that proves not to be the case here. These are kids who most adults wouldn’t want to spend even five minutes with. They come off as spoiled, whiny and full of angst and ennui. There is a melancholia sure, but with the rituals that these kids use to honor their dead it begins to come off as creepy posturing. The kids don’t come off as anything other than people who simply fell into line like sheep and gave up far too soon.

Rønde is a little self-indulgent with his direction, doing so many cutsie things that the audience is drawn out of the movie and paying more attention to the moviemaker. I call this “Look, Ma, I’m Directing syndrome” and Rønde has a nasty case of it. And the ending. Oy vey, the ending. I won’t go into details here, but it’s a colossal cop-out.

The events in Bridgend are apparently still taking place to this day, and quite frankly I think there is an important movie that could be made here. Certainly this is in many ways a cautionary tale for parents that their teens are at risk, but the filmmakers don’t say anything much beyond that. I found this to be a frustrating movie that at the end of the day, was enormously unsatisfying when it didn’t have to be.

REASONS TO GO: Some beautiful cinematography and along with the electronic score creates a foreboding mood.
REASONS TO STAY: Too much self-indulgence and spoiled behavior. Never really gets into the psyche of the “gang.” Too many scenes in which you’re conscious that the director is “directing.”
FAMILY VALUES: Adult themes, some violence, sexual content, nudity and profanity, all involving teens.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Filmed entirely in Bridgend County, Wales where the events that inspired the film actually took place.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/10/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 88% positive reviews. Metacritic: 53/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Paper Towns
FINAL RATING: 4/10
NEXT: The Family Fang