William Nicholson’s Hope Gap benefits from a starry cast in the stagey story of the death of love in a middle-aged, middle-class marriage on the South Coast.
Off a Cliffby Alexa Dalby
Hope Gap is the well-written (directed by William Nicholson, The Heart of the Matter), adaptation by William Nicholson from his stage play The Retreat from Moscow, inspired by his own parents’ divorce. The well-acted story of the breaking up of a middle-aged marriage, it’s perceptive but also very specific to its milieu, tear-jerking but also staid.
Annette Bening and Bill Nighy are wonderful as the couple, academic Grace and teacher Edward, for whom love has died after 29 years of marriage but for only one of them. The ensuing misery has to be dealt with emotionally and practically, but the focus is also the effect of the revelation on their adult son Jamie (Josh O’Connor).
Edward and Grace live what had been an apparently quiet, well-ordered life in an idyllic location, a beachside house on the Sussex coast, the scene of many windswept walks along the cliffs. Now living and making a career in London, their son Jamie tries to act as a mediator and his revelation of a childhood happy moment with them both shows how desperately sad he is, caught in the middle of an unfolding situation that it seems none of the three can really understand.
Nighy and Bening are as good as you might expect, though she seems to struggle at times with her accent. O’Connor too tugs at the heartstrings. But overall, the film feels restrained and muted, an exploration, albeit sensitive, of what’s ultimately a privileged first-world problem.
Hope Gap screened at the BFI London Film Festival and is released on 28 August 2020 in the UK in cinemas and on CCurzon Home Cinema.