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What Happens Is Sincere, but There's Not Much to It
The Eclipse (1:28, R) — Borderline, 3rd string, original
Since I mainly review science-fiction and fantasy films, I have a category called "borderline" for movies that are on the edge of those genres — stories that, seen from one angle, have some kind of SF&F element to them but which, from a different viewpoint, might involve just dreams, imaginings, hallucinations, premonitions, misunderstandings, and the like.
Just such a critter is The Eclipse. It's set in the city of Cobh, County Cork, Ireland, during a week-long literary festival, and it mainly follows the interactions of 3 people:
Michael Farr (Ciarán Hinds), a recently widowed book lover, father of 2 young children, who volunteers as a driver for the festival
Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), an attractive writer of ghost stories, the most recent of which is entitled The Eclipse for no obvious reason and after which the movie is named, also for no obvious reason
Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn), a rich, famous, critically praised, best-selling author, who's let his success go to his head to the point where he's become an insufferable snob
Nicholas and Lena had a brief fling a year or so ago, when he claimed that he was separated from his wife (not borne out by subsequent events); he once again wants to get into her pants; and he thinks that this festival is the perfect opportunity to do so ... but this pretty barmaid will do until Lena overcomes her reluctance.
Meanwhile Michael is doing his best to juggle several different obligations, resulting in his being chronically late to drive the featured writers around, something that Nicholas nastily complains about but which prompts Lena to sympathetically inquire about his life circumstances. As they gradually find out more about each other, especially as Michael's sober solidity stands out in stark relief against Nicholas's drunken boorishness, they start to form a tentative connection.
The burgeoning attraction is based in part on Michael's turning to Lena as an expert on ghost sightings, since lately he's been terribly startled on a couple of occasions by the rotting appearance of his father-in-law, Malachy (Jim Norton), and he wonders whether it's all in his imagination or whether there's something supernatural going on. Mitigating against the latter is that Malachy is still alive, tho in a nursing home and hating it. But, when Lena inquires whether scratches Michael got during a struggle with the "ghost" might have been accidentally self-inflicted, he concedes that he might have been sleep-walking.
And, indeed, there lies the border. All of the apparitions occur when Michael is either dead tired or asleep, so they could have been the workings of an over-tired mind unduly fixated on death due to his continued mourning for his lost Eleanor. (He continues to wear his wedding ring and initially doesn't correct Lena when she mentions his wife.)
Not much happens in this movie. You get the impression that director Conor McPherson is sometimes just padding things out (as with the time he spends showing hotel staff setting up chairs in rows for an author reading). Ireland is beautiful, Cobh is charming, and the performances are uniformly good, but there just isn't much substance and hardly any resolution. I guess sometimes life is like that, but that's not really what I go to movies for.
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