Moody story bogs down excellent performances in ‘Anchor and Hope’

Carlos Marques Marcet/Courtesy
Carlos Marques Marcet/Courtesy

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Grade: 2.5/5.0

The fact that “Anchor and Hope” is titled in a binary proves to be emblematic of the film itself — about half of it is enjoyable.

Carlos Marques-Marcet’s latest film, titled internationally as “Tierra Firme,” concerns a same-sex couple trying to conceive — according to Eva (“Game of Thrones” actress Oona Chaplin), she and Kat (Natalia Tena, another Westeros veteran) need to compensate for all the children raised in right-wing, homophobic households by having a tot of their own.

Though Kat is apprehensive, she’s ultimately supportive, and before long, Kat’s longtime friend Roger (David Verdaguer) becomes the couple’s sperm donor. It’s a fine enough premise for a dramedy, though it’s abandoned in a second-act slump — Roger’s extended stay coincides with a widening rift in Eva and Kat’s relationship (leave it to a man to fracture their domestic idyll).

At this point the film’s moodiness becomes quite taxing to slog through, especially since it isn’t telegraphed early enough to feel warranted. That the film’s rut lasts far too long doesn’t help matters. The male gaze rears its head too, in a scene that feels exploitative and jarringly out of place. One wishes for the film’s literal better half to return, though it never does.

On the other hand, the half of “Anchor and Hope” that proves competent is freewheeling yet languorous, much like Eva and Kat themselves — the couple sleepily sails through London’s pub-lined canals in the boat that the two call home, and the whole ordeal almost feels like a Godard film with its youthfulness, and jump cuts to boot.

The film also showcases a triptych of excellent performances. Chaplin and Tena play the film’s central couple so convincingly that individual scenes are often predicated on their rapport, and left largely unedited. Likewise, Verdaguer lends Roger an earnestness that peeks through the character’s jokey facade.

While there’s plenty to like about “Anchor and Hope,” too much of the film is bound to be overshadowed by its peers at Frameline42 — unlike this film, many of this year’s entries are wholly unforgettable.

Contact Harrison Tunggal at [email protected].