It’s a horrible feeling when you’re only two minutes in to a 100 minute film and you realise ‘oh, this is going to be awful’. Such is the pain of watching Hope Gap, which opens on a flat, nonsensical monologue delivered in voiceover and somehow only goes downhill from there. Adapting his own play The Retreat From Moscow, William Nicholson has kept all of his stagy dialogue and stilted plotting, before adding some exclusively cinematic problems, like ugly cinematography and baffling editing. Awful from top to bottom, Hope Gap is the year’s worst film, and another hideous blot on the hideous blot-heavy (Rules Don’t Apply, Life Itself) recent career of Annette Bening.
At its centre is a kernel of an interesting idea – a 29 year marriage breaks down after the husband (Bill Nighy) simply gives up and walks out, with the shellshocked wife (Bening) attempting to win him back. Yet, every subsequent plot choice is absurd, and not a single line of dialogue sounds remotely human, with the worst kind of half-baked script. Characters have no discernible motivation and little relatable emotion, and the clearly profoundly out of touch Nicholson crafts some hall of fame entries into the annals of embarrassing classroom and pub scenes.
Cloudy visuals and an incongruous score make Hope Gap unpleasant to watch moment to moment, with the only highlights being some nice vistas (then again, you could just Google ‘Suffolk landscape’ and get the same effect without wading through all of Hope Gap’s shite). Though there is nothing any actor could really do with the script – the film is seemingly on Bening’s character’s side but her words and actions are so frustrating and deranged that it’s impossible to know for sure – the performances are still notably awful and it’s hard to pick out the worst offender.
Bening is sour and whiny and struggles with an appalling English accent, while Nighy is flat and dozy and eats an ice cream like a psychopath. As their son, Josh O’Connor is just as terrible, more emotive reading poems in voiceover than he ever is when he appears on screen. Basically, all you need to know about how far from the human experience Hope Gap is comes from one scene, where the son tells his perfectly physically healthy mother that he would support her choice to leap off the local cliffs to her death. This is played as a cathartic breakthrough of true familial love, so antithetical to everything real about family, mental health, and suicide that it’s simply staggering. A disgrace of a movie.