Eye For Film >> Movies >> To Have And To Hold (1996) Film Review
Jack (Tchéky Karyo), a projectionist working in a small village in Papua New Guinea, seemingly has the perfect life; living in paradise with his beautiful wife, Rose (Anni Finsterer), and passing the days screening films to local kids at a makeshift cinema. Perfect, that is, until Rose dies tragically in a boating accident out on the river. Fast-forward to two years later, and while on a trip to Melbourne, Jack meets romantic novelist Kate (Rachel Griffiths) at a book signing and immediately falls for her. Or to be more accurate, falls for her striking resemblance to Rose, whose death he still hasn’t recovered from. After only a short time together, they travel back to live in Jack’s home in Papua New Guinea, but almost immediately there are signs everything isn’t quite right.
Kate takes her new-found romance and exotic location as inspiration for her next novel, perhaps overlooking the true reason for Jack’s interest in her until it is too late. As the cracks begin to appear, it becomes more apparent that Jack is deeply obsessed with his memories of Rose. Sitting in his darkroom, continually re-watching old video clips, it also becomes clear that their marriage wasn’t the perfect life he remembers.
John Hillcoat is best known for his 2005 western, The Proposition, but fans of the director’s films may be waiting a while for his next. To Have And To Hold, his previous feature, was made more than 10 years ago, and received a very limited release. It’s an interesting but flawed study of obsession and guilt, played out against the little-seen wilderness of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. Despite some atmospheric visuals and a wonderful score from Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld and Mick Harvey (former members of The Bad Seeds), the film is ultimately let down by its uneven story.
At first, the pace moves too quickly - rushing confusingly through its opening 10 minutes - then it simply becomes laboured, dragging instead of racing towards its conclusion. Though both Tchéky Karyo and Rachel Griffiths are fine in the lead roles, their characters aren’t given enough depth, so we never discover why Jack became so obsessed with Rose, or why Kate persists with him for so long instead of returning home. But if you can overlook these issues, there is still much to admire, particularly the feverish, isolated atmosphere and the intriguing influence of the past over the present. Perhaps it lacks the moral driving-force of Hillcoat’s later film, but To Have And To Hold remains a proposition worth taking a chance on.Reviewed on: 21 May 2007
If you like this, try:The Proposition