Hope Gap is like Broadchurch if it was a movie about divorce. Starring Bill Nighy, Annette Bening and Josh O’Connor, it’s set against the beautiful backdrop of the English coastline.
Nighy and Bening play a couple married three decades and seemingly rubbing each other up the wrong way the whole time. Their marriage has finally had its death knell and the fallout is messy, painful and confusing. Like all separations. I wouldn’t recommend it for a date night unless you both want to feel a bit miserable.
Hope Gap was written and directed by William Nicholson, whose credits include Les Misérables, Unbroken and Everest. From what I can find it seems like his first solo script and, to be honest, I think it shows.
The dialogue lacks the nuance it needs to make a powerful film. Instead, it comes across as clichéd and, in parts, cheesy. I’m used to seeing Nighy play eccentric, loud characters so the nuance to his acting here was captivating to watch, but, sadly, not totally redeeming. The film has an excellent cast but unfortunately it can’t quite make up for an average script.
The lack of depth to the characters is most evident in their son. He doesn’t have any real personality. You might recognise O’Connor from his role as Prince Charles in critically acclaimed The Crown, where his range was an absolute treat to watch. In Hope Gap the script let him down. The one facet of his personality seems to be that he is noncommittal in relationships.
The other characters are similiarily one-dimensional. Grace is in a permanent state of enragement, both before and after Edward leaves. Edward bumbles around with his new girlfriend, Angela. The tropes are so strong here I almost couldn’t get past them.
Even though I’m of the opinion that this film really could have been something special with a script revision or two, there is still plenty to like. Grace and Edward’s cluttered, slightly neglected seaside home, Edward’s penchant for updating Wikipedia and Grace’s for quoting poetry, the out-of-step nature of their relationship.
Their marriage is already unravelling when we join their story and through the eyes of their son, Jamie, we watch Edward leave Grace for a school Mum. We watch Grace mourn her husband and buy a puppy that she names Edward. There are funny moments, there are sad moments. Bening’s performance might take your breath away.
While Hope Gap is a sad and thought-provoking film about our actions and the consequences on the people around us, I was left wondering what point it was trying to make. Female empowerment? It’s never too late to leave your partner? Divorce is harder the older your child gets?
At one point, Edward’s new girlfriend, Angela, says “the way I see it was there were three unhappy people, and now there’s only one.” Was that the moral of the story? It’s lost on me. Hope Gap doesn’t pack enough emotional punch, or have a clear enough directive, to be the powerful film it could have been.