Veteran screenwriter William Nicholson (Shadowlands, Gladiator) delivers a stale and decidedly uninspiring family drama as writer-director of his new film Hope Gap. It stars five-time Oscar-nominated Annette Bening as a woman struggling to come to terms with the end of her marriage. Bill Nighy plays her departing husband, while Josh O’Connor (God’s Own Country) co-stars as the couple’s grown-up son caught in the middle of their painful break-up.
After 30 years of what she had always believed to be a blissful marriage, Grace (Bening) is stunned when her husband Edward (Nighy) tells her he’s leaving her for a woman he met at work. Angry, depressed and lashing out at the world for what she sees as a great injustice, Grace refuses to come to an amicable arrangement and blames Edward for leading her on by never revealing how unhappy he was during their relationship.
With an excruciatingly simple plot and dialogue best associated with the worst kind of Radio 4 afternoon plays, Hope Gap gets almost nothing right. Drawn-out, monotonous conversations never seem to get to the point, and the premise feels flimsier than your average soap opera narrative.
Dialogue and storyline aside, the film’s biggest failing is that, unfortunately, Bening is terribly miscast here. Her wandering accent – is it Cockney? is it Home Counties? – becomes more jarring the longer we go on. That Grace is an unlikeable character doesn’t help matters and it is hard to sympathise with her continuous self-pity and hectoring manner. None of that is Bening’s fault, of course, and to some extent, she can be forgiven for not knowing what to do with the material given to her. Elsewhere, both Nighy and O’Connor do their best – O’Connor in particular offers a nuanced and affecting turn – but they are often let down by the film’s irritatingly repetitive style.
Ultimately, despite its good intentions, Hope Gap feels too stunted and old-fashioned to work in a contemporary setting – and Nicholson’s directorial style fails to measure up to his earlier work.
- Director: William Nicholson
- Starring: Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor
- Release date: August 28 (in cinemas and available digitally on Curzon Home Cinema)