Kat (Natalia Teena) and Eva (Oona Chaplin) are young, well, young-ish, and live together in some happiness on a riverboat on the Thames, lazily puttering around the London canals and supporting themselves with casual jobs. It's a peaceful life, but when their pet cat dies it sparks something in Eva, and she feels not only bereft, but that there should be something more to her days than being busy doing nothing in particular. After a "ceremony" at the home of Eva's spiritual mother (Geraldine Chaplin), she makes up her mind, and confronts Kat: what she wants now is to start a family with her, she knows that will come as a shock, but the time is surely right...
This was a Spanish-British co-production with a mixture of those nations in the cast and crew, and a dual language effort to boot, which made it come across as truly European in a way that many films out of the United Kingdom were not. It was an indie, and with that came a novelish tone, helped by the splitting of the plot into chapters: you could well envisage this as well-presented on the page, since it was a direct character drama with well-crafted characters that would be ideal for losing yourself in while indulging in a holiday read. But it wasn't a book, it was a film, and that literary nature went against it when you started to ponder why it was a film at all.
Every picture tells a story, but if you could just as well regard this as getting it wrong on how that story was delivered, then you may start to become far too critical, and though Anchor and Hope was finely acted, it did threaten to seem like very small beer indeed, at least until the screenplay put in a crisis for the couple at the heart of the plot. Even with that in mind, you would be wise to set your expectations to a lower level than had you been watching some starry melodrama of a kind a big studio might have released; think about watching this curled up in front of your television on a winter's evening, and you would have a better idea if what it was most appropriate for.
Not that this was set in winter, not all of it anyway, but then neither was it idyllic, as for instance the ins and outs of barge living were brought out in various scenes that included a visual description of how you empty your toilet should you decide to take up that way of life, with a closeup of the shit going down the drain provided at the side of the canal. Did we really need all that? In a way, it determined to convey an unsentimental view of twenty-first century relationships by getting down to the nitty-gritty of the reality of how we live, leaving nothing out, but you did have misgivings about some of director Carlos Marques-Marcet's choices. A late on scene of seduction, complete with an artfully-shot nude lady, is sabotaged by a conversation about the big poo she's just done, for instance, and it's not a comedy scene, either.
The heart of the story was Kat and Eva and how they came to realise they wanted different things from their love. Kat has always been the free spirited one, and the impression is that Eva has kept up with her on the understanding that they will settle down eventually, so when she makes a demand that should happen now and she wants to be a mother, her partner goes along with it more to placate her rather than any great enthusiasm. This tension comes out not in the identity of the father, who is their Spanish pal Roger (David Verdauger), a garrulous womaniser who is not as obnoxious as that sounds, but in how their connection will change once Eva is more invested in a baby than her girlfriend. Though this begins in almost lighthearted fashion, the mood darkens well before the end, and heartache is the order of the day for all three, though thankfully this was ultimately not one of those gay movies where punishing the characters was an unfortunate by-product and we did get an optimistic conclusion. Nothing earth-shattering, but it didn't need to be. Music by Merche Blasco.
[Anchor and Hope will be available on DVD & Digital Download from 5th November.]