Evening enjoys prestigious name recognition. It is based on a novel by Susan Minot, and adapted by Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours. The movie's cast is Dream Team caliber, from Meryl Streep
, Glenn Close
, and Vanessa Redgrave
to Claire Danes
and Toni Collette
. And it marks Lajos Koltai
's anticipated second film.
OK, so the director isn't exactly a household name, but the filmmaker’s fingerprints are all over this moving story of a dying woman, confined to her bed, who reflects on and regrets a relationship she let slip away. Article continues below
Evening studies the choices in life that ask us to settle: marriage, jobs, children. It is a movie about hasty (and often bad) decisions. Ann (Redgrave), who is near her end, wishes she had taken a chance with Harris (Patrick Wilson
), a demure and handsome stranger she met at the wedding of her best friend, Lila (Mamie Gummer
Koltai, a longtime cinematographer, directs Evening with a keen eye for contrasting visual tones. Ann's present-day death bed is muted, fading, and dreary. Her daughters, played with worrisome concern by Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson, wear bland colors, argue in harsh whispers, and keep their energy levels subdued.
Koltai's flashback scenes, the lifeblood of the picture, have the pristine reflection of a Norman Rockwell painting, with pure-white mansions perched on impossibly sandy cliffs overlooking a deep-blue ocean. Did it really look that good or is this just how Ann, played in the past by a starchy Claire Danes, remembers it?
The transitions aren't always graceful as Evening blends Ann's past with her present. We care more for the flashbacks, the scenes that detail the history shared by these characters. The promise of a murder also heightens the dramatic tension. And oddities of Redgrave's death-bed encounters can be chalked up to her steady diet of pills.
But Evening features Acting with a capital "A," pulled off by serious thespians putting years of training to the test. It signifies (I believe) the first time on film that a real-life mother-daughter team (Gummer and Streep) play the same character at different stages of her life. And while Wilson wouldn't be my first choice to play a supposedly magnetic and inspiring male protagonist, the rest of Evening is spot on.