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dir-scr Dominic Savage
prd Guy Heeley
with Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Frances Barber, Jalil Lespert, Marthe Keller, Teddy Pender, Florrie Pender, Laura Donoughue
release US 11.May.18, UK 3.Aug.18
A couple in crisis: Arterton and Cooper
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
A raw, stand-out performance from Gemma Arterton makes this meandering drama worth a look. Writer-director Dominic Savage takes an especially personal approach, as the narrative follows an emotional journey rather than a detailed plot. So while it feels somewhat loose and unstructured, it's also strongly moving as it traces a woman dealing with nagging doubts about her role as a wife and mother.
In suburban London, Tara (Arterton) is a full-time mother to two young children (Teddy and Florrie Pender). Her husband Mark (Cooper) is loving and lusty, but is unable to see that Tara is feeling increasingly trapped in this life. As every day and week seem to drift along without any chance of improving, she begins to panic, longing to hop on one of the Eurostar trains whooshing through the nearby station. And things only get worse when her children get increasingly cranky and her husband refers to her as stupid.
While Mark at least tries to sympathise with Tara, her mother (Barber) just tells her to stop moaning about her comfortable situation. And Tara begins to feel increasingly isolated. Through all of this, Savage keeps the camera tightly focussed on Tara, who often seems to be drifting through scenes as if disconnected from the daily events that bustle noisily around her. Indeed, her encounters with other people have an almost documentary roughness to them that contrasts with the repressed emotions that flicker just behind her eyes. All of which further puts us inside her head.
Arterton has never been quite this transparent on screen, and her stripped-back acting is simply mesmerising. Even though her face barely registers any expression at all, Tara's inner turmoil is vividly apparent at every moment of this story. This extends into the film's final act, as she takes action and embarks on a fantasy-style odyssey that includes encounters with people (Lespert and Keller, both superb) who offer a fresh perspective on her plight. Meanwhile, Cooper is also excellent in a very tough role.
In the end, the script makes some properly insightful comments on Tara's situation. That said, there's the distinct sense that Savage thinks his film is singularly important, so he invests it with some indulgent filmmaking flourishes. But this is the kind of story that everyone knows far too well, as it echoes in each long-term relationship since time began. It's not news that relationships require a lot of work. What may have changed is that has become normal to ask whether saving the marriage is worth the effort.
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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