by Tony Medley
Occasionally a movie comes
along and grabs you. It happened to me in 2004 with The Notebook,
a film that still comes to me at odd times to bring tears to my eyes.
Evening is another such picture.
Themes that could easily be
hackneyed, in the hands of masters can be made into films that have the
power to stir deep emotions. Director Lajos Koltai has taken a
sensitive, brilliant script by Susan Minot (who wrote the book upon
which the film is based) and Michael Cunningham, and produced a film I
wonít soon forget.
This is a film that touched
me deeply because it deals with themes like the loss of a mother, her
value, friendship, lost youthful loves, guilt, unrequited love, and the
power of remembered life; themes that affect us all. The key is the way
these things are handled and presented. I wasnít the only one the film
touched because the woman behind me at the screening was sobbing
throughout, audibly. I was scheduled to go to another screening after
this one, but was so drained that I cancelled. The next morning I
emailed the rep who set up the screenings and apologized but explained
that after watching Evening I just wasnít up to another film. She
responded that she was still crying as she drove home.
Sure, this looks like the
quintessential chick flick. Itís got a story of mothers and daughters,
lots of talk, and tears flow like Yosemite Falls. But it doesnít
stigmatize men. Men are just as nice and sensitive as the women, even
though they donít get a lot of footage. My message to men is: donít
avoid this film. Itís a winner.
As Ann Lord (Vanessa
Redgrave) lies dying, her two daughters, Nina Mars (Toni Collette) and
Constance Haverford (Natasha Richardson, Redgraveís daughter in real
life) are standing watch. Ann awakens occasionally to mumble about
people, like Harris (Patrick Wilson), and events of which Nina and
Constance are ignorant. As she mumbles, we flashback to the weekend of
the wedding of Annís best friend, Lila (Mamie Gummer). The younger Ann
is played by Claire Danes, in the performance of the year. While Nina
and Constance wonder about who Harris was, we learn that he was loved by
both Lila (even though she wasnít marrying him) and Ann. The wedding was
surrounded by consternation. The film continues to flash back and
Even though the main
storyline is about Ann, the daughters have their own problems and their
own lives to live, too. At one point Constance tells Nina, ďNothing gets
its hooks into you; you just drift.Ē
There is a myriad of
characters. In addition to the mothers and their daughters, thereís
Lilaís brother, Buddy (Hugh Dancy), who is always drunk. He thinks Lila
is marrying someone she shouldnít and also has the hots for Ann.
Harris, Lilaís uninvolved lover, is the staunch guy everyone loves
(including Buddy) but is strangely unemotional about it all. Lilaís
parents (Glenn Close and Barry Bostwick) are upper crust Newport scions.
Mr. Wittenborn seems an OK guy, but Mrs. Wittenborn looks down her nose
at everyone, especially Ann. Close is delightfully disagreeable.
This is the best film Iíve
seen so far this year. I canít find one thing to criticize. Claire Danes
should be in the race for the Oscarģ best actress award (since I think
that, she obviously doesnít have a chance). Iíd say that she carries the
movie with her scintillating performance, but this is a film of stars at
the top of their games.
This is a tender, sensitive
story of relationships and missed opportunities, fate and decisions,
and, in the end, how life really works out. It goes on for 117 minutes
but I was involved in each one. The way the film delves into the psyches
of the different characters is brilliant.
June 17, 2007