Film Review: Hope Gap

STUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: William Nicholson | CAST: Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor, Aiysha Hart
SPECS: PG-13 | 100 min. | Drama romance

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

Grace (Annette Bening, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) and Edward (Bill Nighy, About Time) have been married for 29 years and live a seemingly normal–and perhaps even dull–life in Seaford, a picturesque coastal town of East Sussex, England. The retired Grace spends her day compiling a poetry anthology, while Edward still works as a school teacher.

In the days leading up to their anniversary, Grace is eager to emotionally reconnect with her husband, who appears disinterested in engaging beyond superficial niceties. Frustrated Grace begins to act out, even turning over the kitchen table in an attempt to solicit a reaction from Edward, who chooses to just go to bed. When he finally opens up the next morning, it’s only to tell her he cannot give her what she wants and that he’s leaving her another woman. Blindsided, Grace falls into spirals of denial and anger. Caught in the middle of the emotional fallout is their only son Jamie (Josh O’Connor, TV’s The Crown), who unwillingly becomes the intermediary between his separated parents while also trying to navigate his own incapacity to make a  romantic connection.

The examination of a crumbling marriage isn’t a revelatory plot device, but when done well–see Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story–a fine, well-developed film can emerge. Hope Gap boasts strong performances by Bening and Nighy, but it doesn’t provide a gripping enough narrative to elevate it above simple adequacy. Director William Nicholson (whose sole previous feature directorial effort was 1979’s Firelight) shows an even hand with his direction, which includes numerous sweeping shots along the impressive cliffs of Seaford Bay. However, his script, based on his autobiographical 1999 Tony-nominated play The Retreat From Moscow, is instilled with too much British stiff upper lip stoicism. A marriage spanning nearly three decades is dying, yet all of the emotion stays on the surface. Given what we’ve witnessed of Edward, we wonder why Grace would want him back so badly.

Still, Hope Gap offers  moments of poignant truth and intelligence and it is worth a watch. As I reflect on the lush seascape scenery, I just think it would have benefited from a deeper dive into the depths of the character’s feelings to create some resonant ripples.

Hope Gap is now available on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and other platforms.

Buy or Rent Hope Gap
on  Google Play | Vudu

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at