Conversations With Other Women
I never would have thought that one of the best movies I saw of 2005 was about a man and a woman that begin a conversation at a wedding and continue to talk, in near real time, for 90 minutes. Although that might sound boring, believe me when I say that this is a wonderful little film that holds your attention from start to finish. Yes, this is a dialogue-heavy…no, scratch that, dialogue-only film, but it’s written and performed so well that you’re waiting for the next line the entire time. It’s also shot creatively in a split-screen style that really compliments the film.
The story is hard to explain because there’s not much of one and the characters don’t even have names. Aaron Eckhart eyes Helena Bonham-Carter from across the room at a wedding they’re both attending. He approaches her and they start a conversation where they talk about a variety of different things. The film takes place over several hours, but nothing else really happens, we just watch them talk and witness their relationship progress through the night. I’m reading this as I go and so far, I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of convincing you this is a good film…
Okay, so the “mystery” in the film is trying to decipher how well, if at all, Eckhart and Carter know each other. We don’t really know much about their history, other than what they talk about during the course of the night. We also have to try and figure out what’s going on off screen and what kind of interactions they have with other people or people on the phone. It’s almost as if we’re standing in front (or behind) them the whole night and they don’t know it. Director Hans Canosa does a marvelous job of inserting the audience into their conversation and letting us figure out what’s going on.
How many movies have you seen where the director explains everything in such excruciating detail that you actually feel dumber for watching it? It happens all the time in romantic comedies, but Canosa doesn’t tell us anything. The whole film is like solving a romantic mystery where we have look for clues and listen to what they’re saying to draw our own conclusions about what we’re witnessing. That “mystery” ends up being the real joy in the film and it makes for a unique experience that makes for a nice break from the usual Hollywood fare.
Eckhart and Bonham-Carter are at the top of their game here and both of them relax into their characters with ease. It doesn’t even seem like they’re reading a script; these are two professional actors that dive into these characters and deliver on many levels. A lot of credit has to be given to them, but just as much has to be given to screenwriter Gabrielle Zevin for crafting such a wonderful story. Dialogue-heavy films are very difficult to pull off and she and her husband do it so easily that it makes you wonder why they haven’t done more films.