Hope Gap, named after a bay on the Kent coast, is based on writer/director
William Nicholson’s own 1999 play called The Retreat To Moscow.
The story about a couple going through a marriage crisis after 29 years
together never really escapes its stage origins and feels very much like
the play that it’s based on. Other than a few scenes set on the Kent coast
most of the film involves conversations over a table whilst the
protagonists’ drink tea and eat toast.
Annette Benning plays Grace a woman with a fiery temperament which
unfortunately is the polar opposite of her husband, Edward’s (Bill Nighy)
laid back attitude to life. Grace is driven to distraction by his refusal
to engage in her arguments and everything comes to a head on weekend when
their son is visiting (Josh O’Connor) and after one of their many one sided
arguments Grace slaps him on the face and in a temper trashes the kitchen.
The following morning Edward confesses to his son that he’s in love with
another woman and that he’s planning to leave his mother.
After he leaves Grace goes through various stages of emotions raging from
anger, she even buys a puppy and calls it Edward out of spite, to feeling
The big issue with Hope Gap is that Grace, and I presume that we’re meant
to have some empathy with her, is not a particularly likable person, she’s
a bully and doesn’t come across as someone that you would particularly want
to spend any time in the company of, even her son only reluctantly visits
at the weekend. Saying that all the fault can’t be placed on the shoulders
of Grace as Bill Nighy gives his usual deadpan performance making you wish
you could give him a shake out of his lethargy.
All in all Hope Gap feels like an old fashioned British kitchen sink drama
and a not particularly good one at that.