Anchor And Hope

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Anchor And Hope
"A beautifully drawn portrait of a complex situation that doesn't resort to the usual empty assumptions that nothing like this can ever work."

It's after the cat dies that it becomes impossible to deny it any more. Yes, they could get another one, but it wouldn't fill the void in her life that Eva (Oona Chaplin) has been struggling to cope with. She wants a baby. She knows it will be difficult, living on the canal boat, but she doesn't see them being there forever. And her friend Roger (David Verdaguer) is willing to help, so why not?

Girlfriend Kat (Natalie Tena) isn't so sure, but she tries to submerge her disquiet because she wants Eva to be happy. She too is close to Roger, but what works very comfortably as a friendship, even within the close confines of the boat, starts to make her uncomfortable when it begins to turn into a family. It doesn't help that they known nobody else living in a similar arrangement, that they have no role models. Though young, they're all ready to be adult about it - they understand that maintaining relationships requires sacrifice and ongoing effort - but perhaps they don't understand each other, or themselves, as well as they thought.

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A beautifully drawn portrait of a complex situation that doesn't resort to the usual empty assumptions that nothing like this can ever work, Anchor And Hope features dedicated performances from a highly capable young cast. Tena extends her range with every role, here making Kat sexy and confident but utterly dependent on Eva in ways perhaps even Eva doesn't grasp. Chaplin is soulful and sometimes brittle as Eva but slips very easily into the classic romance role of a young woman doing the emotional work necessary to take control of her own destiny. Verdaguer provides most of the comedy and is likeable enough to ensure that the film doesn't drag despite its protracted running time. He's also clumsy enough to ensure that the drama never settles into an obvious passion, bringing an elements of chaos into lives that, for all their Bohemian trappings, are perhaps a little too orderly to allow the women room to breathe.

There's also a nice turn from Geraldine Chaplin - Oona's mum - as Eva's mum, an ageing hippie whose cautious approach to the situation raises questions about what is and is not possible in human relationships, how much that might be influenced by wider society and how the world is changing. Sexuality is never an issue here and there is never an assumption that Roger's relationship with the women will be other than platonic, which means the boring stuff can be set aside in favour of a story focused on character.

The whole film is beautifully shot, from a slow opening scene as the boat cruises under a canal bridge, an arch of light at the far end gradually spreading out to greet us, to a crisp closing shot through air that seems to hold almost as much water as the canal itself. The character of the waterways is so beautifully captured that one can almost smell them, whilst the physicality of managing a boat is reflected in perfectly captured sound. If there is a love rival in this romance, it is the canal. Kat will never want to leave it. Eva longs for more solid foundations (the film's Spanish title is Tierra Firme), and therein lies the real problem. Can love be big enough to make room not just for multiple people, but for their different dreams?

Pleasingly nuanced and notably more intelligent than most films of its ilk, Anchor And Hope is a charmer.

Reviewed on: 23 Sep 2018
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A lesbian couple's relationship comes under strain when they contemplate having a baby.

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London 2017

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