Director: William Nicholson
Cast: Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O'Connor
Country: UK 2019
Running time: 100 mins
Hope Gap features Bill Nighy and Annette Bening as a couple who, after 29 years of marriage, face separation. For feisty Grace (Bening), who keeps demanding they “talk”, the separation is sudden. Whilst for the reserved Edward (Nighy), the ending has been a long-time-coming. Ironically, Grace is forever demanding a reaction from her uneventful husband who enjoys updating military history on Wikipedia. When the calamity happens carefree Grace falls back on her religious belief in marriage “til death do us part”. In the middle of all this is their grown son Jamie (Josh O’Connor), whose own love life amounts to little. The separation raises issues of loss for Jamie who in the end plays a more central role in the narrative than his father.
This is a meditation on a long-term relationship and the void created when it ends. Hope Gap is a reflection on all that has happened and gone in a shared life. Grace insists she is experiencing bereavement. The metaphor of life as a train journey is nicely played out when Edward explains to his son that he met Grace on the wrong train by accident.
Despite all this, Hope Gap is a witty take on separation in later life. Sensitive and slow-moving, it’s more to do with the personal and internal conflicts of all three protagonists. The Seaford walks and the white cliffs along the English South coast, provide a suitable backdrop. Bening’s impeccable English accent is a bit forced, but her expressive, quizzical delivery is a joy to watch as she moves between episodes of anger, depression and resignation. Nighy offers his usual dry, droll wit which is never a disappointment.
(First Reviewed, Headline Gala, London Film Festival October 2019)