UK Release Date: 28th September 2018
Runtime: 113 minutes
Director: Carlos Marques-Marcet
Writer: Carlos Marques-Marcet, Jules Nurrish
Starring: Oona Chaplin, Natalia Tena, David Verdaguer, Geraldine Chaplin
Synopsis: A lesbian couple living in cramped conditions on a houseboat on the canals of London decide to conceive a child with the help of their best friend, who is visiting from Spain.
Relationships in film are often mired in melodrama and cliché. It’s rare that a union between two people is depicted with any sense of realism and plausibility on the big screen. That’s not a problem that afflicts the new movie Anchor and Hope. Co-written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Carlos Marques-Marcet, the film is a bracing and complex depiction of a loved-up couple as they are dragged from the quaint, peaceful canals of Britain to the stormy seas of a relationship under threat by the spectre of one, significant disagreement.
When the audience is first introduced to Eva (Oona Chaplin) and Kat (Natalia Tena), they are canoodling in Eva’s mother’s garden in the wake of a ludicrous funeral for their ludicrously named cat Chorizo. The couple live on a houseboat, moving through the canals of London in an existence that Kat covets, but seems to present problems for Eva’s most fervent desire – she wants to start a family. When Kat’s childhood friend Roger (David Verdaguer) arrives from Spain to stay for a few weeks, a drunken evening leads to a loose agreement that Roger will serve as a sperm donor to help the couple conceive.
The joy of Anchor and Hope is in the natural chemistry that crackles between the three central characters. The relationships between Chaplin, Tena and Verdaguer are entirely believable and we can sense that these people have history together. They banter with the ease of people who have known each other forever, whether they’re trading drunken barbs or executing a crudely hilarious choreographed dance to reggae hit ‘Sweat (A La La La La Long)’. It’s a stark contrast to the borderline pretentious filmmaking flourishes of opening with a contemplative long shot of a boat passing through a tunnel and entirely perfunctory chapter headings.
Anchor and Hope is strongest when it allows for the characters and their scabrous sense of humour to take centre stage. Natalia Tena, in particular, is perfect as the potty-mouthed free spirit who is of the view that bringing a baby into their cramped environment would be a “selfish” move. It’s her bohemian, ‘continuous cruiser’ lifestyle that was adopted by Chaplin’s more traditional Eva when their relationship began, but it’s becoming increasingly less attractive as time passes. Eva is shown to embrace the prospect of being a suburban parent, to the point where this begins to drive a wedge between her and Kat.
The gradual widening of this divide is as compelling as it is heart-breaking. Tena spends most of the movie blissfully oblivious to the increasing sadness of her girlfriend and her own realisation is told with a tragic sense of bracing, harsh reality. The genius of Marques-Marcet’s movie is in encouraging his audience to fall in love, not only with the characters, but with their relationship in its simplest form, before deepening and complicating that relationship. It feels punishing and real.
This is also a movie that has a clear love for Britain, new and old. The narrowboat at the centre of the story is a quintessential symbol of the UK, especially when doubled with Ewan MacColl singing ‘Dirty Old Town’ over the opening scene. Cinematographer Dagmar Weaver-Madsen’s camera constantly seeks out unique, evocative beauty among the sludgy canals of the capital, whether in the delightfully traditional exterior of the titular pub or the imposing, monolithic gasworks that litter the sides of these waterways. These old-fashioned symbols are deliberately contrasted with the unconventional family unit at the centre of the story, communicating the breadth of society in modern Britain.
But at its heart, Anchor and Hope is a beautiful, heart-breaking movie with an impish sense of humour and a real eye for depicting its characters at their most complex and vulnerable. Game of Thrones alumni Tena and Chaplin prove to be a formidable leading duo and the smart, intricate script has a real truth to it, right up until the delightfully ambiguous final moments.
Pop or Poop?
In a very strong year for independent British productions, Anchor and Hope stands out as one of the best. It’s a movie powered by a trio of electric performances, brought to life with a sense of definite reality by director Carlos Marques-Marcet. Anyone who has ever been in a tough spot in a relationship, gay or straight, will identify strongly with the turmoil here and will definitely recognise the way it winds to an unsure, cloudy conclusion.
Anchor and Hope will be released in UK cinemas from September 28.
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