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Hope Gap Is A  Masterly Study Of  A Broken  Marriage

Hope Gap

Starring Annette Bening,  Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor

Directed  by  William  Nicholson

Rating: ****(4 stars)

Okay I  am  holding back  here. I would have gone  with a 5-star rating for this excruciatingly   beautiful   portrait  of  a marriage falling apart  But all my editors feel  I am too generous with the ratings….So here  I am ,  practising  the ‘less is  more’ ideology for a  change.

This is what  Hope Gap does. It is extremely austere in  reifying the emotions that we  can see  swell up in  the  characters as they face a situation they never expected.  After 30 years  of a comfortable marriage , who quits? It sounds ridiculous   to even   the  man, played  with tremendous restrain and dignity  by  Bill Nighy.

For years Edward  has been  taking in his wife’s bantering and bullying, taunting and  temper tantrums.

“Why didn’t you tell  her that you hated her  attitude?”  their shocked son Jamie asks his father as the  patriarch  prepares  to leave home  one not so fine Sunday morning while  matriarch  Grace attends church,clueless that her husband’s  plans to  change her life, THEIR  life,   so  suddenly at a  time when she dreamt of only  the  calmness of  a shared retirement.

It’s  a cruel baffling  scenario, as seen  through the  eyes of  the son. Josh O’Connor as  the son who has his own  problems away from home  in London to deal with, fills the film with a nurturing empathy. In one of the film many memorable sequences(almost  every  moment is unforgettable) Jamie tells his  only two friends how ,when he  was a  child, his parents would pick him from both the  sides and swing him midair while walking together . As he tells this, his voice cracks. The tears flow.

Stop Gap is not only  about the tears, though.  There is tremendous warmth and laughter  in the way the nuclear family  deals with this  unexpected crisis. The redoubtable  Annette Bening as  the abandoned wife is her usual magnificent yet understated  self. As  the moody hot-tempered  Grace she  never realizes what  irrevocable damage  she has been causing to her marriage  over decades. And when the wages of her  insensitivity weigh in on her marriage she is completely ill-prepared for the storm.

I loved  the sequence in the  lawyer’s office where she walks in with her   new pet dog named Edward after her deserter husband and then , as expected, creates a scene,   finally  walking out on the lawyer , her husband and their divorce settlement  accusing the lawyer  of  behaving  like Nelson Mandela(!!).

For me the crux  of the film are the  mother-son sequences. Bening and  O’Connor play majestically  against one  another, creating the kind of  umbilical tension that  most children of  warring parents  would recognize. At  one  point Jamie tells his  mother to let me him know if she’s planning to end her life after the  marital abandonment. No , it’s  not a joke shared between mother and son. It is a statement  on the enormity  of  the grief that  Jamie’s  father has left behind. And yet  you can’t hate the man for finding love elsewhere.

Hope Gap has no room or patience for hatred. It’s  a gently undulating  beautifully shot  saga,  moving like the waves  that  tug and prod the rocks of Sussex where the muted drama is located. The film ends on a note of hope. Yes, life goes on, no matter what. But  sometimes the wounds are too deep to heal The  film reminds  us of those hurts that never fade . It’s  not  a film about  love and romance. It’s about the end  of  love and  marriage. But it’s not the end.

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