The Escape review Gemma Arterton Dominic CooperYear: 2018
Director(s): Dominic Savage
Writer(s): Dominic Savage
Region of Origin: UK

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Rating: n/a
Digital, Color, 105 mins

Synopsis: An ordinary woman makes an extraordinary decision which will change her life forever. (Source)

A husband, home, financial stability and children – for most, having any one of these is bliss, having all, that’s the ultimate dream. Still, the latter isn’t a life for everyone, and that’s never been better illustrated than in Dominic Savage’s The Escape. Savage’s film is an impeccably understated portrait of domestic and existential ennui. At its heart, the film dares to peak behind the veil of suburban perfection, exposing the rotten core eating away at one unwitting woman. Thanks to a fiercely nuanced performance from Gemma Arterton, Savage twists archetypal ideals into personal hell, rendering a portrait that’s as harrowing as it is empathetic.

On surface, Tara (Gemma Arterton) has it all. Her family can be difficult but loves her, she’s got somewhere to call home, and is a stay-at-home mom while her husband Mark (Dominic Cooper) runs off to pay the bills. In reality, Tara is pretty much dead on the inside. Acts of intimacy are a chore, she has a hard time caring about her kids, and home feels like a gilded cage. Little by little, Tara finds herself yearning for more, wondering what else lies beyond her staid, monotone existence. Keeping her anguish hidden from an unsuspecting family, she searches for an elusive freedom.

In more ways than one, Savage’s film is an expressive and intimate experience. Honing in almost exclusively on Tara’s isolation and loneliness, Savage thoughtfully renders the gulf between outer appearances and inner truth. In this way, the film is deeply personal, putting us alongside its tormented subject as her world crumbles. Most impressive, is how Savage is able to convey such an internalized conflict. Dealing with abstracts, the film’s atmosphere offers no escape, even as it contrasts moments of tenderness with a mounting sense of dread. Even deeper, the film dissects the idea of identity, questioning how much each of us can give to those around us before we lose ourselves. All in all, undeniably fascinating stuff, and all told in the most emotionally honest way.

The Escape Gemma ArtertonThough Dominic Cooper’s Mark is a worthy counterpart to Arterton’s Tara, it’s really Arterton who runs the show. Essentially, Arterton’s performance is the film’s entire backbone. She gives everything a true sense of desperation. To Savage’s credit, he never goes out of its way to make us like Tara, yet we’re always fully on board with Arterton’s raw performance no matter what. Arterton’s haunted haunted complexity gives the film its depth, tightening a loose, minimal plot like a noose that’s hard to shake.

The Escape is a damning exploration of everyday life and the seemingly innocuous things that weigh us down. On every front, it’s a perspective that’s hardly explored in film, and one that definitely doesn’t shy away from the deep sadness within. Savage gives the film a realism that’s earned, never succumbing to sensationalism but instead lining every scene with quiet, candid dread. Despite the story’s despair, however, there is something quietly empowering about it, capturing a conflicted nature that’s all too relatable and unmistakably genuine.

SG