The Escape

 

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Scenes from a marriage, English style.

 
Escape, The

Gemma Arterton

 

Better known for his work in television, the writer-director Dominic Savage has now created this original work for cinema, but the most important fact about The Escape is that it sees Gemma Arterton (also an executive producer in this instance) giving what to date is undoubtedly a career-best performance. She plays Tara who is living in Kent with her adoring husband, Mark (Dominic Cooper), and their two young children. Yet, as is apparent at the outset, she is not happy.

 

As a portrait of a wife and mother burdened by an increasing sense of malaise, The Escape is bleak but memorably believable. Tara's state is hardly the passing phase that one person suggests, but what it amounts to is a question that confronts the viewer as Arterton renders Tara's unhappiness palpable. She clearly suffers from what has become her daily routine: it involves looking after the children and the home with all the cleaning and cooking contained in that and it leaves her with no time to enjoy outside activities. But it is also obvious that she is putting up with her husband's sexual urges that she can no longer match. Was she even wrong to marry him in the first place given that her own artistic interests serve only to underline Mark's lack of any comparable outlook due, perhaps, to limited education?  In spite of these factors, does she still love him, or does she stay on through a sense of duty? How relevant is it that, whether or not as part of her depression, she has persuaded herself that she is a mother who does not really care for her children?

 

It is this downbeat but thoroughly persuasive portrait of a marriage that makes The Escape worth seeing. But, relatively late on, Tara walks out. That moment convinces, but when she takes a Eurostar train to Paris our interest immediately diminishes. Tara's own uncertainty becomes that of the film and her encounter with a Frenchman who picks her up (Jalil Lespert) feels like an anticlimax. What is more, the final stages of the story are rushed before leading to a final sequence that leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions as to how things have worked out. To do so is not difficult, but nothing can conceal the fact that the first two thirds of The Escape are far more effective than what follows.

 

Furthermore, although in part this may be a matter of personal taste, I am not convinced that Savage being so used to television has any real understanding of what works and what doesn't work in cinema. True, he does embrace the opportunity to use close-ups tellingly, not least in the sex scenes, but he favours a music score that, complete with touches of wordless vocals, seems a self-conscious way of trying to express Tara's feelings. Even more tiresomely, in telling what is essentially a naturalistic story, he inserts at intervals panning shots of semi-abstract images that really belong to another film. Also he fails to realise that when a film is in 'Scope it is a distraction to feature shots in which the background is shown out of focus. That said, Cooper is good, the basic subject matter is unquestionably worthwhile and Arterton is magnificent.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Jalil Lespert, Frances Barber, Marthe Keller, Teddy Pender, Florrie Pender.

 

Dir Dominic Savage, Pro Guy Heeley, Screenplay Dominic Savage, Ph Laurie Rose, Art Dir Richard Usher, Ed David Charap, Music Alexandra Harwood and Anthony John, Costumes Liza Bracey.

 

Lorton Entertainment/Shoebox Films-Vertigo Films.
101 mins. UK. 2017. Rel: 3 August 2018. Cert. 15.