Conversations with Other Women (2006)
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Helena Bonham Carter, Erik Eidem, Nora Zehetner, Thomas Lennon, Olivia Wilde
Directed by: Hans Canosa
You want indie film? This is indie film! Made for a scant $450,000, and distributed by Fabrication Films (yeah, I’ve never heard of them either; this has to be their biggest release yet), Conversations with Other Women doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet! All of which kind of shocks me that I was able to catch it on a screen in Calgary, which I guess shows that we’re getting more and more cultured.
Since this such a small film (trading in on the white hot celebrity of Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter), I figure I should do a summary, since I’m sure a lot of people haven’t heard of it. Eckhart and Carter play former lovers who reunite at a wedding reception, spending the evening flirting, reminiscing, and dancing around an adulterous encounter that forces them to examine their past with each others and their desires of the present.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, and on the face of it, it isn’t. Eckhart and Carter’s characters aren’t even given names. This is not a plot-driven film, it is character-driven, powered by a clever script that cuts to the heart of relationships and the inner lives of its characters, and two fantastic performances by the leads who each appear on screen about 98% of the film’s 84 minute running time. This is an actor’s movie, with the camera focusing in on the minutia of each lead’s performance, giving the audience a fly-on-the-wall perspective of a critical moment of their lives.
The big gimmick of the movie is director Hans Canosa‘s choice to present the entire film in split-screen, usually dividing each actor with their own shot, revealing different aspects of their perspective (or, at times, the opposing character’s POV of them). Sometimes, the split-screen is employed to reveal the past of the characters as it relates to the present (with the younger versions of the characters played by Erik Eidem and Nora Zehetner), other times it provides a look into the outside world as it relates to the characters’ current actions, other times to reveal the inner thoughts of the characters. The gimmick is a little disconcerting at first, making you wonder if you’d have an easier time following the movie if you had a compound eye or something. But, as the movie progresses, you grow accustomed to the effect, which makes an otherwise static film more visually compelling than it would be without it (plus, it makes it impossible for there to be a fullscreen release of this movie, which is a plus). Whether or not you get into this movie will probably depend most on what you think about the split-screen effect, if it annoys you as unnecessarily arty, then you’ll never get into the script and performances.
If you can get into it, then you should discover a rewarding little film that breathes authenticity with its dialogue and performances. There are some genuinely funny moments, effective tension, and touching glances into the hopes and dreams of these two mature, broken people. It’s a talky movie, incredibly reminiscent of Richard Linklater‘s Before Sunset (and, by extension, Before Sunrise as well, although the themes are more similar to Before Sunset). Given that those two movies are two of my all-time favourites, it’s not surprising that I enjoyed this film as well (despite its uncomfortable theme of adultery, which usually doesn’t sit well with me). If you enjoy those movies, or similar intelligent, conversational, mature movies about relationships, then you should try to check this out if it ever finds its way to you.