29 October 2014

Evening (starring Vanessa Redgrave, Clare Danes and Mamie Gummer)

I assume that Amazon recommended this DVD to me because it features Meryl Streep, whom I consider one of the greatest living actresses; I have enjoyed many of her films, and the reviews of this were generally good, so I put it on my wishlist.

‘Evening’ was something I received for my birthday earlier in the year and which we watched last night. The blurb didn’t say much, other than that it was a heart-rending tear-jerker, but the cover looked appealing. We weren’t too sure what to expect, and wondered if it was going to be rather morbid at first, since the main character, brilliantly portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave, is an elderly woman called Ann who is evidently at the last stage of a serious illness. She has two daughters who seem to spend their time arguing; one is a traditional family woman with a career, the other has floated around between different jobs and boyfriends, and admits to being phobic about commitment.

Ann’s mind is evidently wandering somewhat, and when she mentions the name ‘Harris’ as a great mistake of her youth, her daughters wonder if she’s becoming delirious. But we’re then transported back to the 1950s, with Ann as a young woman (Clare Danes) going to her best friend’s wedding. Her friend Lila (Mamie Gummer) lives in a huge house, and is quite conventional; but her brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy) is convinced that she’s about to make a terrible mistake in marrying the upright (and dull) Karl.

Buddy then introduces Ann to Harris, a doctor who is the son of the former family housekeeper. Everybody, it seems, is in love with Harris - and Ann quickly falls under his spell.

To say much more would be to give spoilers of a film that owes more to characterisation and scenery than plot. The action (such as it is) switches between the present and the past almost at random, as we gradually see events unfold during the weekend of Lila’s wedding, culminating in a tragedy which is not unexpected (since present-day Ann has mentioned it) but still shocking.

It was quite mesmerising at times, though neither of us found it heart-rending or even tear-jerking. However it was certainly thought-provoking and somewhat moving, although the tearful scenes were just a touch too melodramatic. Themes were about love, and choices; whether or not a life was wasted or fulfilled; the value of friendship, the dangers of jealousy. It was cleverly put together although towards the end there were some decidedly surreal scenes that were amusing rather than poignant, as it became clear that Ann had one foot in the next world already.

Meryl Streep’s cameo role did not appear until near the end, when she played the part of the now elderly Lila; perfectly cast, as the young Lila was played by her daughter. Indeed, most of the acting was very good, although I never quite believed in the drunken, confused Buddy, and I found Ann’s daughters’ bickering to be unrealistic and inappropriate on the whole.

It could perhaps have been cut from 112 minutes to 90 without any real loss, but I didn’t find it dull at all despite being somewhat slow-moving; the ending was less morbid and more upbeat than we had feared and overall I enjoyed it.

The rating is 12 which I think is about right; there’s no real violence, just a few instances of bad language, implied intimacy but no details. The subject matter is unlikely to be of interest to anyone under the age of about 15 in any case.

Recommended if you don’t mind a bit of melodrama, and enjoy meandering character-based thematic dramas.


Review by copyright 2014 Sue's DVD Reviews

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