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‘Hope Gap’ Review: Dir. William Nicholson (2019) [LFF]

Divorce dramas seem to be the hot ticket of this year’s LFF; as well as Noah Baumbach’s much-lauded Marriage Story, Annette Bening, and Bill Nighy-starrer Hope Gap gives its own spin on a couple going through the wringer of a failing marriage.

Provided by BFI LFF

We open with Bening’s Grace recounting the days in which her son Jamie (Josh O’Connor) was a child and they enjoyed strolls out to scenic spot Hope Gap – not too far from the white cliffs of Dover. The thing is, it’s a lifetime ago and life isn’t as easygoing anymore. Grace and her husband, Edward (Nighy), are now losing their spark – with the former trying in any way she can to rekindle their former love – and Jamie, living his own life, struggles with the downfalls of work and finding romance. Wanting to get away from his troubles, Jamie heads home but only finds more to add to the pile when is forced to mediate the separation of his parents.

Bening’s visit to Hope Gap in the film’s opening moments fittingly sets the tone of the piece to follow; it’s a very polished, clean spot – devoid of nature’s grit and dirt and wear – with a very refined voiceover booming over it. The whole location feels too…. manufactured. And the story never really escapes this; from its first frame to its last, there’s something off about writer/director William Nicholson’s latest – lacking the authenticity that feels necessary for this story to ring true. There’s no weight or emotion behind any of the exchanges Grace and Edward share and the dialogue feels clunky and contrived; as a result, it’s hard to invest in their characters or feel at all torn by their divorce. The same can be said for Jamie, whose presence is just unnecessary. There is the occasional joke that lands or moment that rings true but, for the most part, the screenplay offers a very sanitised, cookie-cutter look at the messy themes it decides to focus on. There’s no depth or nuance to the writing which means so much of it is just dull to watch.

Despite this, the cast does well with the material they have to work with. Hope Gap remains somewhat competent largely due to the performances from Bening, Nighy, and O’Connor who make the most of it all. The chemistry between the trio is undeniable and they breathe as much charisma and heart into the film as they can. It’s just a shame that their characters feel fairly generic and one-dimensional. Sadly the result is something that has clear potential but feels too polished an endeavour for the story it’s handling, lacking any sort of emotional backbone or nuance to shine as it could have. I hoped this was better.

Hope Gap is currently awaiting a release.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a real passion for movies and for writing. I'm a superhero fanboy at heart; 'The Dark Knight' and 'Days of Future Past' are a couple of my favourites. I'm a big sci-fi fan too - 'Star Wars' has been my inspiration from the start; 'Super 8' is another personal favourite, close to my heart... I love movies. All kinds of movies. Lots of them too.


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