CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMEN Directed by Hans Canosa. Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Aaron Eckhart 16 cert, Cineworld, Dublin, 84 min
SPLIT screen, a device that often seems to be merely gimmicky, has been a staple of movies since the silent era. The device became particularly modish in the 1960s; more recently, 24 has made extensive and effective use of it on the small screen.
Conversations with Other Women ambitiously goes the distance, splitting its widescreen format in two in order to probe and ponder the relationship between a man and a woman who meet at a wedding reception. He (Aaron Eckhart) is the bride’s brother; she (Helena Bonham Carter) is one of her bridesmaids.
When he flirtatiously approaches her with two glasses of champagne, it seems that they are strangers to each other, but in the teasingly revealing screenplay, it transpires that they were in an emotionally charged relationship back in their college days. We never learn the names of the protagonists, but we get to know them very well indeed as layers of information emerge in their conversation over a long night’s journey into day.
Working from the premise that there are two sides to every love story, the split screen technique observes every scene from both points of view – and there are no others in what is essentially a two-hander movie beyond a few peripheral characters inserted for comic relief and flashbacks to the protagonists in their late teens.
The device is initially distracting, but first-time director Hans Canosa, who also edited the movie, has planned every shot and cut so carefully that we gradually relax as the movie taps into our voyeuristic nature.
Gabrielle Zevin’s witty, barbed and unexpectedly touching script contains a few implausible elements, and some of the dialogue feels contrived, but the actors wear their roles like the snuggest-fitting gloves, inhabiting their characters with flair and conviction.