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A FilmExposed Film Review

Conversations with Other Women (15)

Conversations with Other Women (15)

Dir: Hans Canosa, 2005, UK/USA, 84 mins
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Helena Bonham Carter

Oh the wonders of modern technology, director Hans Canosa must have been thinking whilst concocting a fresh slant on the romantic comedy genre. But while his bittersweet, split-screened love yarn earns maximum brownie points for originality, the finished product tends less towards the broken-hearted and more towards the heartless.

Two apparent strangers cross paths at a New York wedding. His (Eckhart) sister is the bride. She (Bonham Carter) is a bridesmaid. They exchange flirtatious small talk before a succession of flashbacks reveals that they are not in fact strangers and once shared a passionate teenage fling. Twenty years later and passion has eroded into cynicism, spontaneity has seeped into scepticism, buff bellies have become flabby and silky skin has become considerably more ‘papery’.

In its essence Conversations with Other Women is a tale of love, lust, chance, fate and relationships. The wedding in question is out of sight, serving only as the proverbial juncture from which Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter’s nameless duo embark upon an evening of temptation, reflection, fornication and more reflection. Carter’s miserable matron is married to Jeffrey the cardiologist, a loyal doctor who provides her with a safe, reliable haven. Meanwhile, Eckhart shamelessly carries on with Sarah the Dancer, boosting his ego with casual, pig-headed sex. Both Jeffrey and Sarah are realised only in the descriptions that their partners afford them, their fleeting snap shots intruding on the guilty intimacy of our bed fellows.

The film evokes memories of Richard Linklater’s arty duology Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). Unfortunately, the romantic protagonists are no Jesse and Celine. Their doubting, sneering misanthropy, whilst unflinching in its cold-hearted realism, lacks the easy chemistry and deft magic that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy brought to the screen. They are bound not by love or lust but by boredom and convenience and it makes for depressing viewing. Neither character is particularly amiable. Eckhart is in fact repellent. His smug, blonde-tinted dude, complete with schoolboy humour would be more at home in American Pie (1999) or an episode of Saved by the Bell. Carter’s snobby scoffer isn’t much better but at least she has some morals and shows traces of a conscience. Both are capable actors but the script is too conceited, too ironic and too shallow to do them justice and Eckhart’s declaration of undying love towards the film’s conclusion sits horribly out of context.

The films’ 24-style split screen adds multiple possibilities. Flashbacks are utilised, imagination is suggested, dual, opposing character reactions are prevalent and we can see two parallel scenes unfolding simultaneously à la Sliding Doors (1998). But by slicing the frame in half Canosa succeeds only in blocking a path to his characters’ souls. It seems as though his double-take camera is compensating for their lack of charisma and soon becomes nauseating and somewhat disconcerting.

In the end, we are left as indifferent bystanders in this bold but ultimately flawed ‘will they, won’t they’ drama, disconnected by choppy editing and disengaged by brash, pretentious scripting. A film of two halves then. Both of them rather lopsided.


Joey Bastick-Vines

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