Category: Archive

McPherson’s ‘Eclipse’ filled with shadows and light

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Ciaran Hinds, a formidable character actor in Irish and international features for more than two decades, impresses in the lead role lead as widower Michael Farr. A meek schoolteacher trying vainly to cope with the death of his beloved wife two years previously, Farr’s loss is compounded by the struggle to bring up his two young children alone. When night falls, he suffers grief so acute that he has visions of the dead too vivid to be mere nightmares. With no one to turn to for solace, he encounters a sympathetic listener in Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), a writer of novels of the paranormal, whom Farr is asked to chaperone when he volunteers at Cobh Literary Festival.
Lena’s empathy for Farr fosters an emotional connection between them, giving him the encouragement he needs to write down his feelings of being haunted. This bond is soon threatened by the arrival of celebrated author Nicholas Holden. In a rollicking turn by Aidan Quinn, Holden, a needy narcissist contemptuous of his readers and the media circus of the event, quickly reveals his motive for attending: to rekindle a romance with Lena, sparked at a previous festival. She has more sense than to take up with a married man weaseling his way out of wedlock, and recognizes their one-night stand for what it was. Spurned by Lena, and paranoid about stalkers, Holden turns his anger on her new friend Farr, dismissing him as an autograph-chasing loser, which leads to a bruising collision between the two.
“The Eclipse” continues McPherson’s exploration of character-based drama, this time in a collaboration with Wexford playwright Billy Roche. Written in New York during a stagehand strike when his play “The Seafarer” was about to debut on Broadway two years ago, McPherson based the script on “Table Manners,” a short story from Roche’s collection, “Tales From Rainwater Pond.” Roche himself plays a cameo role in the film as the festival organizer.
Shooting on location in County Cork, in the 19th century port of Cobh, McPherson uses the local Victorian architecture to create a shadowy world redolent of Joyce, in which the specters of those gone before pervade the present of those still alive. McPherson shoots many of the scenes in the lingering twilight of Irish summer, capturing eloquently that azure tone that lingers till near midnight, a febrile haze in which to imagine otherworldy spirits.
Wandering through this dusk like a lost soul, Ciaran Hinds is deeply affecting as the forlorn woodwork teacher trying to put his loss behind him, yet unable to move on. Aidan Quinn provides a wicked foil as the egotist Holden, drunkenly indifferent to the needs of anyone but himself. Hjejle, as the wispy Lena, doesn’t hold up her corner of the triangle as convincingly. Decked out in cyan outfits against a pallid sky, she is eclipsed by her costars, which at least gives give her dibs on the title.
“The Eclipse” screens Thursday, April 30, at 4 p.m., at AMC Village, located at 66 Third Ave. in Manhattan.

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