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Review: William Nicholson’s ‘Hope Gap,’ starring Annette Bening, can’t escape its stage roots

Bill Nighy and Annette Bening in the movie ‘Hope Gap’
Bill Nighy and Annette Bening in the movie “Hope Gap.”
(Robert Viglasky/Roadside Attractions/Screen Media)

A couple suddenly calls it quits after almost 29 years of marriage in “Hope Gap,” an intelligent and absorbing, if slightly bland domestic drama scripted and directed by William Nicholson, inspired by his own parents’ divorce.

It’s no surprise that this often stagey film was first a play: Nicholson’s “The Retreat From Moscow,” a multiple 2004 Tony Award nominee. The movie, although truthful, moving and, at times, profound does more “telling” than “showing” and could have used a more visually commanding approach.

That said, the film, mainly set in the English coastal town of Seaford (home to scenic walking spot Hope Gap), boasts three solid performances: Annette Bening, donning an unforced British accent, as retiree and poetry lover Grace; Bill Nighy as her history teacher husband, Edward, who leaves her for another woman; and Josh O’Connor as their sensitive, adult son, Jamie, who must run interference between his newly separated parents while navigating his own inability to romantically connect.

Nicholson, who co-wrote “Gladiator” and 2012’s “Les Misérables,” poignantly depicts how longtime marrieds can drift apart without both parties fully knowing it. Or, as the practical Edward notes, “You can love somebody and want to leave them at the same time.” Meanwhile, Grace’s refusal to simply let Edward go is unsettlingly, if credibly handled.

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'Hope Gap'
Rated: PG-13, for some thematic elements and brief strong language

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Starts March 6; ArcLight Hollywood; the Landmark, West Los Angeles


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