By Lynn Venhaus
She quotes poetry and he combs through books for his classes in their well lived-in cottage by the sea. Their grown son, Jamie (Josh O’Connor), rarely visits, and they all interact with such restraint that you know some things are simmering underneath the polite and genteel façade.
Grace (Annette Bening) is needy and Edward (Bill Nighy) is distant. They are a longtime married couple slogging through a dull, lifeless marriage. When Edward decides he can’t give Grace what she wants as they approach their 29th anniversary and he will leave for another woman, their divorce drama plays out, pulling in their single adult son.
This is a British movie sorely in need of some “oomph.” And that doesn’t mean more sweeping shots of the coastal cliffs.
Well-intentioned, though, this look at a disintegration of a marriage and its ripple effects isn’t as finessed as the superior “Marriage Story” or even “Shoot the Moon” starring Albert Finney and Diane Keaton 30-some years ago.
Director-writer William Nicholson, who was Oscar-nominated for his screenplays of “Gladiator” and Shadowlands,” has adapted his 1989 play, The Retreat from Moscow,” into a very stiff movie.
While the performers are good delving into their characters, a pall of melancholy hangs over what is a nice-looking film. Bening’s accent wavers, and both characters are annoying as their selfishness is exposed.
And the subplot with the son’s inability to sustain a close relationship needed more development. O’Connor, who played Prince Charles in “The Crown,” is strong and deserved a better-written character.
In fact, the movie just goes through the motions, and fails to sustain any momentum.
“Hope Gap” is a drama rated PG-13 for some thematics elements and brief strong language. Directed by William Nicholson, its stars Annette Bening, Bill Nighy and Josh O’Connor. Run time is: 1 hr. 40 min. Lynn’s Grade: C
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.