EVENING (Lajos Koltai, 2007)

I was so moved by the freshness with which Hungarian filmmaker Lajos Koltai invested Imre Kertész’s Holocaust material in Fateless (Sorstalanság, 2005) that I am saddened by the dreary, hollow, sentimental mess of his second film: Evening, written by Susan Minot, from her novel, and Michael Cunningham. Koltai, of course, has been one of the world’s great cinematographers for nearly forty years.
     Add this to the film’s catalogue of disappointments: Vanessa Redgrave, likely the world’s greatest working actress in English, stars as Ann Grant Lord, who is dying and delirious, dreaming of herself and other characters from some fifty years earlier, when she made a “mistake” that still haunts her and proceeded with a careerless life as wife and mother that disappointed her. Now her two grown daughters, along with a nurse, are caring for Ann in her home. Koltai has done nothing to help Redgrave hit the standard of acting we are accustomed from her. Redgrave at least is watchable, though; Claire Danes, who plays the same character as a young woman, is ridiculously inept.
     From Cunningham’s novel, The Hours (2002) is the dreadful film this one is most like; but whereas Stephen Daldrey’s film trivializes at least two important lives, Evening further trivializes already trivial lives. Depressingly, none of its skeins of feminist and humane themes, including closeted homosexuality, register in the slightest.
     Near the end, there is, finally, something to move us: an exquisite scene between Ann and longtime friend Lila, bringing together Redgrave and Meryl Streep. (Streep’s daughter, Mamie Gummer, plays young Lila; Redgrave’s daughter, Natasha Richardson, plays Ann’s daughter Constance.) Finally, Ebon Moss-Bachrach is wonderful as Luc, Ann’s daughter Nina’s loyal boyfriend. You may recall that Moss-Bachrach, as the younger brother, outacted Keanu Reeves in The Lake House (Alejandro Agresti, 2006).

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