31 July 2020.
HOPE GAP ****
This is the best film I’ve seen this year. Hope Gap is a lovely place in England but also a sort of definition of what is going on as we watch a marriage of almost thirty years coming apart. The dialogue is cutting and superb as is the acting of Annette Bening and Bill Nighy as the couple, directed by scriptwriter William Nicholson who recalls here the separation of his own parents.
Despite the heartbreaking premise and terrible feeling of loss from the wife’s point of view, there is almost a breath of fresh air as we follow the sudden declaration and departure of the husband, when the son comes home for a visit. As one of them says, “fine isn’t the same as happy”, for they are a couple that has fallen into a painful routine of civility. And when the man can no longer take the nagging and the playacting, he blurts out the truth of a new-found love.
Nicholson and his brilliant actors make one feel every stab in the heart, every angry outburst, every moment of guilt, accusation and depression. And the understanding that a sudden break is better than a prolonged agony. There is this terrible gap, but there may be hope.
This is moviemaking at its most intelligent and profound, comparable to the 1966 “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and last year’s “Marriage Story”. I could see another Oscar nomination for Bening here.
T’AS PECHO? *** (vo French)
The old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” fits this film perfectly. As I entered its recent press screening I was dreading another silly, tiresome French comedy. But we walked out with smiles on our faces and in our hearts, for it’s just that kind of film – smart, tender, funny, without the vulgarity that has become the norm lately.
A high school somewhere in France; four geeky adolescent boys who so want to be popular and get invited to that cool girl’s party. But none of them have hooked up with a girl yet, which is the meaning of the French teen slang “ta pécho.” Feeling like desperate losers, their leader chooses a girl he really likes and suggests a bargain – for payment, she teaches them how to be cool and attractive. The story is familiar, but not with this sort of sweet eagerness and wisdom.
This both hilarious and touching film covers many themes – the relationship between a strict single father and his daughter; a loving single mother and her son; Arab pride in being French yet keeping old habits; the girls more confident than the boys; and a kid coming to terms with his gayness. All encompassed in the fun yet anxious atmosphere of today’s teen years. Director Adeline Picault has done a great job with her young, mostly amateur cast plus adult players including Ramzy Bedia and Vincent Macaigne. A fine film to share with your budding teenagers.
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Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.