What does it mean to fall in love? What does it mean to be faithful? Is one more important than the other? How does happiness fit in to all this? Those questions lie at the heart of A Grand Romantic Gesture, directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin. This romantic comedy is a bit more cynical than we are used to in the genre. It seems to want to try to walk a line between the idea that we should follow our passions and that it will only bring pain to try.
Ava (Gina McKee) is middle-aged Ph.D. who has just lost her job and will soon become a grandmother. With time on her hand, her husband encourages her to take a cooking course. Instead, she ends up in a drama workshop working on Romeo and Juliet. In a quirky bit of casting, Ava is cast as Juliet opposite Simon (Douglas Hodge), who is also married. The two quickly fall in love, although they drag their feet on acting on it. Much of their courtship is running lines, which take on the weight of their relationship.
From time to time, we see Ava in a bit of confession-cam setting, speaking about what?s happening. We also see Simon?s wife Ros (Linda Kash) also speaking of the events. Ros is by far the most cynical of the bunch. Her idea of love and marriage seem to be that the two ideas don?t really fit together. Indeed, each of the marriages in the film (including Ava?s daughter and her husband) is flawed to the point of our wondering why all these people are together. We may wonder if we should be emotionally wanting Ava and Simon to be together. After all, they are in marriages that seem to be based more on inertia than love. Does the passion that grows within them justify the disruption it might bring? And we might also wonder if the happiness that comes from passion is lasting.
The film?s tag line is ?It?s never too late to screw up your life?. That is what we watch happening. Not only are Ava and Simon screwing up their own lives, but there are ripples that flow out to those around them. In the end, there will be pain, no matter what happens to them as a couple.
The passion of love?s first flush may open the possibilities of happiness, but it may also be covering up pains that we haven?t really dealt with. That is part of what is happening with Ava and Simon, although we hear much more of the women?s reflection on events than men?s. In time the film comes down on the side of finding joy in the life you have, but it is never quite clear that such happiness is enough.
A Grand Romantic Gesture is available on VOD.
Photos courtesy of Paragraph Pictures.