aGLIFF Review: Anchor and Hope

Sperm donor comedy is more charming than that description implies

A lesbian couple want to have a child and need a sperm donor for that essential step. They could go to a clinic, but decide to get an assist from one of the women’s friends, visiting from out of town. What could go wrong?

If that premise sounds like it could be its own category on Netflix, Spanish writer/director Carlos Marques-Marcet transcends most of the trappings of cliche, infusing Anchor and Hope (Spanish title: Tierra Firme) with a narrative full of moments of acute observation that linger on just how messy relationships can be.

Eva (Oona Chaplin) and Kat (Natalia Tena) live life in a narrow boat on the canals of London. The couple’s nomadic life (law requires the houseboats to move mooring every two weeks) is quintessentially bohemian – Eva gives dance lessons and Kat works at the titular pub, and their boat resembles Sixties commune. However, the duo turns into a trio when Kat’s best friend Roger (Marques-Marcet mainstay David Verdaguer) visits from Barcelona. After the requisite drunken reunion, Roger gets a job hawking chicken kabobs on the street, and Eva reveals to Kat her to desire to be a mother. Kat acquiesces and Roger goes to the bathroom for his own part. Enter complications.

What makes Anchor rise above (no pun intended) are the performances by the leads. Chaplin and Tena have a wonderful chemistry, each the yin to the other’s yang. And Verdaguer plays Roger as a hilariously foul-mouthed Lothario whose schtick masks a deeper well of compassion. We may have seen this story before, but not quite like this, with Marques-Marquet using the fascinating subculture of London canal living to beautiful effect. A charming and evocative film full of heart and humor, Anchor and Hope tells a well-worn story in a fresh and incisive way.

Find more reviews, previews, and recommendations for this year's All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival see The queer film fest runs Thursday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 9.

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