Great acting, but oh … so slow

2008-01-14 00:00

I still can’t decide if this movie was very boring or rather wonderful. It is slow, it is inconclusive and it is performance, rather than plot-driven, and has been almost universally panned by critics. What I liked about it was that it seemed to transcend its story — the daughters of a dying woman gathering around her deathbed — and become a sort of parable of life in general, but one without a lesson in it.

The dying woman is Ann Lord (Vanessa Redgrave), who spends most of her time in a dream, remembering a weekend 50 years before that altered the course of her life. The flashbacks are intercut with the squabbling of Ann’s daughters, smug mother Constance and commitment-phobe Nina (Toni Collette), as they wait for her to die. They hear their mother call out the name of a man they have never heard of, and this mystery makes them confront their own lives.

In the parallel story, young Ann (Claire Danes) is bridesmaid at the wedding of her college friend Lila (Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep), the daughter of rich parents, who is marrying for respectability rather than love. The man Lila really loves is Harris (Patrick Wilson), now a doctor, but once a servant of Lila’s family. Ann and Harris fall almost instantly into each other’s arms, but tragedy and Lila’s feelings come between them and they realise that they must keep their lives separate and their love a secret to the grave.

The main problem with this movie is the lack of chemistry between Danes’s and Wilson’s characters, which made their huge love affair unbelievable. But apart from that, the all-star cast delivers the goods, especially Hugh Dancy as Lila’s little brother Buddy and their mother, played by Glenn Close, who gets about one scene but is absolutely stunning in it.

You will either hate this movie or cry buckets. *** Joanna Wright

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