If you have heard anything about this film; then you probably know that it is shot entirely in split screen. I feel uneasy opening with that because, although it helped peak my interest, there is a lot more to this film than an unusual visual technique. Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter lead the film as two unnamed people who meet at a wedding reception and engage in a sexually charged battle of words and will power. Taking place over the course of that one night, we are allowed into an intimate space where adulterous relationships are explored, and older ones are relived, as both individuals run through the decisions that they have made to reach this point in their lives. The film avoids any pitfalls into pretension or cliché with a subtle, and moving script which is well directed by Hans Canosa.
Helena Bonham Carter gives a wonderful performance in this film; full of little nuances and masked emotions that suggest a considerable depth to her character. Aaron Eckhart is excellent playing opposite his co-star; his character often loses the battles that they play to outwit the other, and Eckhart manages to play this, apparently simpler, more comedic role, but then he slowly lets his character’s depth and emotional turmoil seep through. He has a different, but ultimately equally challenging role to play as Helena does and their approaches complement each other nicely. The characters are very much real people, and are convincing as normal, unremarkable people. The humour, which is scattered throughout, made the film funnier than I was expecting and keeps it grounded so that the emotion of the film is all the more moving.
The split screen technique often allows you to, on the one half of the screen observe either flashbacks or glimpses of moments ahead, whilst the other half stays in the present. You could say that in many ways you become the editor as you choose whether to hear the flashback whilst watching the present, or vice versa. The technique really comes into its own however when it shows us the multiple emotions that the characters are feeling at a given time. These are juxtaposed against each other resulting in a layered and complex character study. The film does reward multiple viewings as you will inevitably take in slightly different versions of the same film every time. The premise does suggest that you would have to keep breaking your concentration as you flick between the two halves, however, for me at least, this wasn’t the case. Very quickly you adapt to it and it begins to feel natural, perhaps more like a play; where you can pick out any performer and watch how they are reacting to the unfolding events, not being restrained by a single camera angle.
I have read that the film has been cut into a normal, non split screen version for television and, although I would be interested to see exactly how this affects the film, I would not recommend seeing it this way for the first time. Yes it is an interesting, and well acted story but part of the joy of this film is seeing the characters reacting to each other in real time, and you will lose that in this TV version. It is a small, and seemingly not too highly regarded film; it currently has an imdb score of 6.9, but I do recommend it, it’s sort of a forgotten gem.