Hope springs eter­nal

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

A LOVE story of sorts no, make that out of sorts – Hope Springs ranks as one of the most des­o­late feel­good films you will ever see.

If you have en­coun­tered any ad­vance mar­ket­ing for the pic­ture, you could be for­given for as­sum­ing a sprightly lit­tle ma­ture- age knees- up is in the off­ing.

Long- term mar­rieds Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones ( pic­tured) ap­pear to be good- na­turedly zing­ing each other through a se­ries of com­i­cal cou­ples coun­selling clin­ics con­ducted by Steve Carell.

Let the record show that the trailer, to man­gle some ad­ver­tis­ing- speak, is all about up­selling a downer.

For once you start watch­ing Hope Springs, you will soon re­alise quite a dif­fer­ent film is com­ing at you.

A slower film. A sad­der film. A bet­ter film, too.

Two su­perb an­chor­ing per­for­mances pre­vent serv­ing up a wal­low too hard to swal­low.

Streep and Jones play Kay and Arnold, a not- so- dy­namic duo who have been hus­band and wife for 31 years.

Kay and Arnold have be­come so com­fort­able in each other’s com­pany that things have be­come down­right un­com­fort­able.

Each day is a rit­ual, played out al­most un­con­sciously. Kay goes down to the kitchen. Makes Arnold his break­fast. He en­ters, con­sumes same, reads the pa­per in si­lence, prof­fers a peck on the cheek, then hauls him­self in the di­rec­tion of work.

Arnold gets home from work. Ac­cepts and con­sumes an­other meal from Kay. Falls asleep in his easy chair in front of the tele­vi­sion.

Kay wakes him. Both move silently up the stairs. Then re­tire to their sep­a­rate bed­rooms.

Even with ac­tors as skilled as Streep and Jones keep­ing their roles on the right side of ac­ces­si­ble, there can be no deny­ing the chill in the air when­ever Kay and Arnold move past one an­other.

All in­ti­macy is gone. The lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion are down. So where to from here? Arnold is not about to say. But for Kay, any­where will do.

In a rare show of in­de­pen­dence, Kay forces Arnold to ac­com­pany her to the town of Hope Springs, Maine, where re­la­tion­ship ther­a­pist Dr Feld ( Carell) has one week to jump- start the two stalled en­gines be­fore him.

The daily ses­sions for the trio – some­times funny, some­times sober­ing, al­ways awk­ward – form a solid core for the pic­ture.

The softer, sweeter stuff can be found when Kay and Arnold em­bark on an evening to put into prac­tice what they are learn­ing from Dr Feld.

As un­com­fort­able an ex­pe­ri­ence as Hope Springs proves to be – I’d es­ti­mate the con­tent to be three parts hurt­ing to one part heal­ing – it is a work that cov­ers its topic ably and in­sight­fully.

Again, aside from a well- ob­served screen­play, the plau­dits must go to Streep and Jones for war­rant­ing our con­cern, sym­pa­thy and af­fec­tion throughout.

In their sure hands, Hope Springs is not so much a film that will grown on you, as one that will grow around you.

Now show­ing Vil­lage and State cine­mas

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