Starring: Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor
Director: William Nicholson
Running Time: 100 mins
Hope Gap is a British film about a woman whose husband of 29 years suddenly leaves her, forcing her to cope with a future without him and reevaluate her life.
A gripping marital drama it undoubtedly is, but there’s something more to Hope Gap than pure relationship intrigue. With a powerhouse lead performance by Annette Bening and brilliant turns from Bill Nighy and Josh O’Connor, this film opens up an eye-opening and emotionally staggering perspective on emotional trauma, and the horror of dealing with it and trying to find a way forward in life.
For the best part of the film’s first act, things play out as a more standard marital drama, as we see Bening and Nighy’s long-standing relationship on the rocks as their characters clash. At times, Hope Gap can tend a little towards the melodramatic in its opening stages, which is strange given the film’s small scale in location and production, though it certainly still proves a gripping watch from the start.
However, where this film really impresses is the way in which it shows the true challenge of dealing with emotional pain in the immediate aftermath of trauma. After her husband leaves her out of the blue, Annette Bening’s character is forced to confront life in the years ahead, yet without the motivation, passion and happiness that she had before.
The depth of her pain is evident from the very moment Bill Nighy walks out the door, and Bening does a fantastic job at portraying that hurt in a measured and accessible manner, brilliantly externalising what the film shows is a very internal process of recovering from a moment of trauma.
However, more than purely a story about recovery, Hope Gap is a film that isn’t afraid to shy away from the darkest depths of the human mind, as we see Bening’s character pushed to the edge when she feels as if there is no light at the end of her tunnel.
It may seem like a melodramatic way to put things, but the point that Hope Gap makes is that people have a devastating capacity to take themselves to the end far sooner than is really the case, and that helping others to deal with that pain is incredibly important.
The film is uncompromising in its dramatic intensity in the second half, and Annette Bening’s performance is both understated and staggeringly powerful, bringing the true gravity of the film’s message to light in incredible fashion.
Coupled with heartfelt family drama, appropriately dark humour and elegant production, Hope Gap is a film full of riveting contrasts, but they’re contrasts that make for a fascinating and uniquely affecting story. So, that’s why I’m giving the film a 7.6 overall.