A Marriage Story (Film Thoughts: Hope Gap)

1hopwOne of the biggest shames in the world is that Annette Bening still does not have an Academy Award. I think she is one of the best actors out there today. One needs to just watch ‘Hope Gap’ to see that – this is a woman who lives in every character she portrays. In this film, directed by William Nicholson (and based on his play) she plays Grace, a woman who has been married to her husband of almost twenty nine years. Grace can be insufferable – she is overly dramatic, in the hopes of any kind of reaction from her husband (Bill Nighy) who seems to have checked out of the marriage. Well, it turns out he is in the throes of checking out – he has met another woman, and has planned to leave Grace.  Blindsided, Grace reacts passively and violently all at the same time. She screams, she shouts, she stalks. In the hands of a lesser actress, the effect would be shrill – but there is a lot of layers in Bening’s performance that you instantly understand what Grace is going through, This is an actress who makes you believe.

Too bad the film can be sometimes too genteel. Nighy’s quiet resigned performance is perfectly matched. Josh O Connor (he is everywhere these days, and thank you Lord for that) is fantastic as the son caught between the parents. But I like genteel – I love most of the aspects of the film, from Grace’s obsession with poems, to the breathtaking views of the cliffs in Seaside, England. I so wish Bening would get notices for this role, but I think the film is much too subtle. Still, watch this for a living legend in action.

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