It’s Gemma Arterton vs. Domestic Expectations in “The Escape”

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Dominic Savage’s character study The Escape seems intended as The Yellow Wallpaper for the modern-day disgruntled wife and mother, but more than anything else, the end result serves mostly as a performance vehicle for Gemma Arterton. We’re introduced to Tara (Arterton) through the mundane activities of a domestic life in London that’s clearly wearing her down — waking up in bed next to her husband, sending her children off to school, cleaning the kitchen. Tara’s name isn’t revealed until far into the movie, a choice that suggests her loss of identity outside familial duties. Her husband (Dominic Cooper) tries, in his way, to make the relationship work, but they’re both let down by his severe lack of perceptiveness and his inexplicable resistance to the idea of Tara doing creative activities outside of housework, like taking art classes. Arterton masters the look of numbed pain — especially in the way she blankly stares at the ceiling during sex, not at all aroused, before tears fall down her face. Tara’s mood oscillates from solitary ennui to screaming “Fuck you” to her kids in a moment of rage.

So Tara does what the film’s title promises: She escapes, to Paris, after impulsively buying a train ticket. There, she meets a French stranger, and assumes a temporary persona as an unmarried, childless woman, before realizing that this vacation, like others, is all too fleeting. Director-writer Savage understands the lack of rationality in depression — especially since Tara seems to lead such a well-balanced, privileged life — but after so many montages of her aimlessly walking around and muttering, “I’m not happy,” one begins to think The Escape would have been better served as a short.

The Escape
Written and directed by Dominic Savage
IFC Films
Now playing, IFC Center

 

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