Hope Gap

Hope Gap

2020, PG-13, 101 min. Directed by William Nicholson. Starring Annette Bening, Josh O’Connor, Bill Nighy, Aiysha Hart, Ryan McKen.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 13, 2020

She’s been a grifter, a gun moll, a scheming marquise, a dying film star, the Supreme Intelligence. Annette Bening – four times an Oscar nominee, never a winner, and not even acknowledged for her transcendent 20th Century Women – is indisputably one of our great actors, last century and this one. Alas, this modest, not-very-impactful story of a marriage ending isn’t going on her short list of personal bests; indeed, if there’s anything that distinguishes her performance here, it’s that her character is so deeply unpleasant to be around.

Burdened with a British accent that never quite feels native to her, Bening plays Grace, a poetry editor living comfortably in a picturesque English coastal village. Wife of 29 years to mild-mannered Edward (Nighy) and mother to Jamie (O’Connor, on a roll lately with Emma. and The Crown), who seems to have inherited his father’s inability to speak up for himself, Grace has a big, bulldozing personality. She tries to bully Edward into fights, she’s not above getting physical, and she dismisses her son’s abandonment of Catholicism as him just being thick: “If you understood properly, you’d believe.” A real piece of work, this one.

Early on, Edward snips the last thread that’s been keeping this marriage together, and the rest of the film is mostly about Jamie’s efforts to tend to his mother in her deepening depression. (Once Edward liberates himself from his marriage, Nighy’s screen time disappointingly becomes more limited, as does the audience’s tether to him.) Writer/director William Nicholson (twice-nominated for a screenwriting Oscar for Gladiator and Shadowlands) kicks some fruitful ideas out to sea – how Grace’s faith complicates her suicidal feelings, what it’s like as an adult to reckon with your parents’ complex inner lives – but turns away from them before they get truly interesting. Indeed, the sensation that dogs Hope Gap is that they forgot to roll camera on the most dramatic parts. What’s left over isn’t bad, only underwhelming.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Annette Bening Films
Death on the Nile
Brannagh's back for another ride under the detective's moustache

Steve Davis, Feb. 11, 2022

The Report
Recounting of U.S. torture program investigation is dry as Senate testimony

Marjorie Baumgarten, Nov. 15, 2019

More by Kimberley Jones
We Have an Issue: Maybe Youth Isn’t Wasted on the Young
We Have an Issue: Maybe Youth Isn’t Wasted on the Young
On this week’s cover: “10 Bands Under 25 That Make Me Feel Alive”

June 10, 2022

A made-up romance provides a solid foundation for this engineering story

June 3, 2022


Hope Gap, William Nicholson, Annette Bening, Josh O’Connor, Bill Nighy, Aiysha Hart, Ryan McKen

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle