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Overall Rating
3.79

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look85.71%
Average: 7.14%
Pretty Bad: 7.14%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 2 user ratings


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Eclipse, The
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by Jay Seaver

"An occasionally haunted drama."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: If I hadn't seen the line in "The Eclipse"'s credits about it being based on a set of short stories, I'd wonder why certain moments were in it at all. They seem so out of place, and are a few jump moments potentially inserted into a preview really going to entice horror movie fans into seeing what is, the rest of the time, a very quiet movie about middle-aged people at a literary festival?

The festival is in Cobh, a modest-sized town in Ireland's County Cork. Michael Farr (Ciaran Hinds) is a volunteer, and his job includes shuttling visiting authors around town, whether from the train station to the hotel or from a cottage to the lecture hall. Two in particular, who have a history, though they couldn't be more different, stand out: Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn), a best-selling author whose book regularly get adapted into movies, and Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), a writer of literary ghost stories. Even if Lena weren't lovely and charming, Michael might want to pick her brain on the subject of ghosts, anyway. He's seeing something, but it's not his dead wife, but her father Malachi (Jim Norton) - who is still alive, albeit in a home.

To call the scenes where Michael sees apparitions incongruous might be severely understating the matter - even though they form a basis for Michael connecting with Lena, they are spaced far enough apart that the audience can forget that they are a part of the film until the next one appears. Though the first sighting is relatively low-key and eerie because of it, later ones are loud and jarring, with things popping up out of nowhere with attendant black goop. These scenes aren't completely forgotten later, but they do tend to seem out of place - The Eclipse never becomes a horror movie, or truly about the ghosts plaguing Michael.

They're unnecessary, too, because the time spent on them could perhaps be used on giving us a closer look at the festival - a setting that does not seem widely used in film, and which hints at some interesting side characters - or, more likely, to give us a little more time with the main characters. The relationships that exist and form between them are familiar and quickly understood, but no less interesting because of that. Writer/director Conor McPherson's script hints at each of them being more than just a familiar type, and the actors run with it.

Ciaran Hinds, for instance, is quietly fantastic as Michael. This character is not obviously notable like some of the others, a woodworking teacher whose enthusiasm for the written word is quiet but no less real. He's quietly apologetic when he's late or otherwise falls short, always showing the sort of stress that weighs on any single parent but never playing it as more of a crisis than it would actually be. When things do start to get weird, there's the unspoken sense that he's playing it as normal because he knows that the people who depend on him need that. There's also a nice chemistry between him and Iben Hjejle, an attraction he can't conceive of noticing because the passing of Michael's wife is too recent.

Hjejle is great as the other half of those scenes, connecting with Hinds's Michael as two intelligent adults whose relationship is not defined by attraction but where that need not be discounted. She hits just the right note in a drunk scene - a little loosened up, cute in how the writer of ghost stories finds the cottage spooky, but with just the right edge to her voice and manner to say that this isn't really just Lena with her guard down. Actual Londoners might quibble with her accent, but most of us would be hard-pressed to peg her as a Dane who has only occasionally done English-language work in the decade since High Fidelity.

She also works well against Aidan Quinn, who invests quite a bit into the smallest main role. His Nicholas is unpleasant in a lot of ways, from how he seems to get no joy in meeting his fans to how he continues to push himself toward a clearly uncomfortable Lena (and has the nerve to call Michael a stalker). As much as he's a prick in his interactions, there's also an element to him which suggests that Nicholas is a man who can't cope with something, whether it be fame or writing or commitment. Without making us like Nicholas, Quinn does make him a flawed human being rather than a perfect jerk.

McPherson takes these performances (as well as the work of Eanna Hardwicke, Hannah Lynch, and Jim Norton as Michael's family) and knits together some good, low-key drama. Even without the intrusions of the supernatural, he finds interesting ways to juxtapose the ordinary, everyday life of the Parrs with the unusual events of the festival and entry of Lena into Michael's life. It's also a handsome film to look at, both for Ivan McCullough's digital photography (as much as I still prefer film, the Red cameras are certainly proving themselves to be the next-best thing) and for the shots they find in Cobh, which has the sort of lived-in beauty that it's hard to fault characters for stopping and saying "look at this!"

The ghost story elements haven't been forgotten by the end, and the last of the supernatural-tinged bits arguably has a major influence on how the final scene plays out, but I still wonder why they are there. This is not a movie about jumps, and those looking for sustained scares will be disappointed. If you're interested in some fine acting, though, the cast will make up for that disappointment with interest.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18594&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/28/09 02:32:23
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/01/10 atlantis7 Although I have not read any of the Twilight books, from a movie standpoint, this sequel wa 2 stars
6/25/10 porfle Okay, but not really all that much to it. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  26-Mar-2010 (R)
  DVD: 29-Jun-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Mar-2010
  DVD: 29-Jun-2010


Directed by
  Conor McPherson

Written by
  Conor McPherson

Cast
  Aidan Quinn
  Ciarán Hinds
  Iben Hjejle



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