Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by William Nicholson (writer of Gladiator, among other notable films), Hope Gap is a new drama dealing with a relationship in turmoil. Grounded by two absolutely stellar performances from leads by Bill Nighy and Annette Bening, this may not be the most cinematic drama to grace the screen, but it is still very compelling.
The movie explores a couple’s relationship with their son after they announce that they will be getting a divorce. Although this is very much a subtle and low-key film, it plays out in a very compelling way because it is rooted firmly in human emotions. Unlike many similar dramas, the movie doesn’t lean too heavily into sentimentality or melodrama, but instead the true gravity of the situation.
Even though the film doesn’t play out with the most aggressive pacing, there is something compelling about the subtlety and nuance of the more reserved approach the movie takes. The protagonist’s descent is slow and gradual, occurring over the course of the film. This arc that she experiences is often riveting.
That said, one of the movie’s greatest weaknesses is that it does not develop both halves of the relationship equally. There is a second half to this story that is almost totally missing from the film, and exploring this could have allowed the movie to be even more resonant. The untapped potential in this storyline is one of the film’s greatest disappointments.
The movie explores what it means to be in a relationship, and it does a good job of developing this theme. The idea of sacrifice is an important motif in the film, and the portions of the movie that evaluate the sacrifices that the protagonists made in the name of their one-time love for each other are among the most compelling.
Nighy and Bening absolutely light up the screen in their lead roles, giving performances that elevate the film from solid to extremely memorable. The chemistry between the two actors is brilliant, driving home the believability of the relationship with the help of the thoroughly poetic dialogue. Bening is particularly heartbreaking in her role, having the most substantial material.
On a technical level, the movie is admittedly very flat, but that is because Nicholson directs the film with an eye for script and performance. As the second feature-length directorial effort from a prolific writer, it is clear that Nicholson has a passion and talent for storytelling. Although the visuals could have spared to be a bit more eye-catching, the movie is well-told as a whole.
Hope Gap may not be a revolutionary exercise in filmmaking, but for what it is — a quiet character study — it works very well. Older audiences will likely find more to appreciate in this movie than their younger counterparts, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a quite admirable watch.
Hope Gap is now playing in theaters.