Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…as powerful domestic stories go, it’s in the top league.
It’s clear from the outset that this is going to be a nicely literate story, what with the early allusions to Napoleonic history and the poetry of Yeats and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. But it also morphs quite rapidly into a psychological drama. The central protagonists are married couple – of 29 years – Grace (Annette Bening) and Edward (Bill Nighy). They live in an English seaside town near striking white cliffs, but theirs is hardly a rural idyll and their unhappiness is characterised by bitter exchanges in which the volatile Grace seems very much the dominant partner of her quiet and withdrawn husband.
But – SPOILER ALERT! – the tables of power are, so to speak, very soon overturned. Edward reveals that he has been having an affair for the past year, and will be moving out without further ado. Grace is devastated, and her needy desperation is uncomfortable to watch, not least in an excruciating scene in a lawyer’s office.
Both Bening and Nighy give terrific performances, but if anything, they’re outclassed by Josh O’Connor, who’s so uncannily naturalistic as their son Jamie that it almost seems like he’s not acting at all.
There are many great qualities here: the aforementioned crackerjack acting, the wit, the sophisticated but also convincingly conversational script, a strong universal theme… The only flaw of any significance is that Grace is too annoying to be more than intermittently sympathetic. But as powerful domestic stories (Ordinary People, In the Bedroom, Shoot the Moon, Marriage Story) go, it’s in the top league.