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Review: Domestic life closes in on Gemma Arterton in British drama ‘The Escape’

Gemma Arterton as Tara in Dominic Savage’s “THE ESCAPE.” Credit: Joss Barratt / IFC Films
Gemma Arterton in the movie “The Escape.”
(Joss Barratt / IFC Films)

Although its title might imply some intrepid action movie, writer-director Dominic Savage’s intimate, deeply emotional drama “The Escape” proves, in its own way, just as daring and harrowing an experience.

This observational look at Tara (Gemma Arterton), a suburban London wife and mother whose boredom and depression has turned her into a kind of domestic zombie, takes a page from 1970s-era, she’s-come-undone films such as “A Woman Under the Influence” and “Diary of a Mad Housewife,” with coincidental mommy-meltdown echoes of the current “Tully.”

Thanks to Savage’s immersive, often improvisational approach and a compellingly raw, internal turn by Arterton (“Gemma Bovery,” “Their Finest”) as an everyday woman who seemingly has it all — nice home, two cute kids (real-life siblings Teddy and Florrie Pender), and a handsome and passionate, if rather flummoxed husband (Dominic Cooper) — Tara’s claustrophobic world and increasingly checked-out mindset feel undeniably authentic. It’s also all a bit grueling to watch.

The film’s story and shooting style thankfully lighten and soften an hour in when Tara “escapes” to Paris by Eurostar for some much-needed mental and artistic inspiration. If there’s inevitability to Tara’s museum meet-cute with a sexy Frenchman (Jalil Lespert) and, later, her prophetic encounter with a wise stranger (Marthe Keller), they credibly help lead Tara back to her reality — which will hopefully now include a really good therapist.

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‘The Escape’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; also on VOD

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