Annette Bening's Brilliant 'Hope Gap' Performance Shows That Divorce Is Good Directed by William Nicholson
Starring Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O'Connor
Published Mar 09, 2019Sometimes, divorce is a good thing. Sure, it's not much fun for anyone involved, but Hope Gap's bleak portrait of matrimony is a good reminder that some couples are better apart.
Grace (Annette Bening) and Edward (Bill Nighy) have been together for three decades, and their marriage has developed into a robotic routine. Grace is working on an anthology of poetry, Edward is a teacher who edits Wikipedia entries in his free time, and their son Jamie (Josh O'Connor) has moved out and rarely visits. Grace is combative and overly critical, and her volatile outbursts increasingly drive away her emotionally withdrawn husband.
Finally, Edward pulls the plug and leaves his wife for a new partner, Angela (Sally Rogers). This throws Grace into a tailspin: despite her complaints about their marriage, she desperately tries to hang on, and she lashes out with an ill-advised but relatable mix of anger and neediness. Fearing for his mom's safety, Jamie starts spending weekends back home, acting as a mediator between his parents.
The film draws numerous parallels between divorce and war: leaving a spouse is repeatedly likened to leaving a fellow soldier to die after a battle, and Grace says that her marriage has been murdered. The marital melodrama is both gloomy and darkly comic — especially when Grace gives her new puppy the same name as her ex. Bening brings her all to the role, giving the film its emotional urgency in contrast to the reticence of Edward and Jamie.
Hope Gap offers beautiful views of the British coastline and ugly views of relationships. But despite the film's gloomy tone, the lasting impression is comforting rather than despairing: no matter how shitty life is, someone else has gone through the same thing. They got through it, and so will you.