DVD Review: The Escape (2017)

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Called Babe or Mummy throughout a majority of The Escape, it isn’t until roughly sixty minutes into Dominic Savage’s intimate, largely improvised marital chamber drama that Gemma Arterton’s depressed married mother of two stops sleepwalking through her life long enough to reveal that her name is actually Tara.

Stating this fact in a calm, clear, and loud voice (for the relatively meek Tara that is) to a train ticketing agent, this otherwise seemingly inconsequential exchange is suddenly given the weight of the world.

Vital enough as it is for directly corresponding with the idea of escape promised by the film's title, Arterton’s simple assertion said to a fellow woman who – unlike her husband and children – wants nothing from her is, by contrast, loaded with meaning.

Brilliantly performed by its talented cast, it's in these small moments where, much like Tara, Savage’s searing film breaks out of its claustrophobic shell and allows its viewers to not only take a moment to reflect on everything that's happened but breathe.

An infinitely difficult though incredibly humanistic offering, The Escape features a potent against-type turn by Arterton's close friend and Tamara Drewe costar Dominic Cooper as Tara’s emotionally myopic, self-absorbed husband Mark.

Feeling both isolated and far removed from her husband as well as her children, Arterton's bored, stifled, and uninspired lead finds herself suffering from Thomas Hardyish levels of melancholia which increase slowly like a roller coaster making its way to the top of the first hill before the inevitable plummet.

Initially forcing herself to go through the motions with her family, as the film continues Tara prioritizes flight over fight and opts to walk away from them all.

Yet intriguingly, even though we mainly see the world of The Escape through Tara’s point-of-view, Savage refuses to give us a one-sided look at marriage and motherhood or let us think for a minute that an escape (no matter how long) will solve her problems or give her an easy way out.

A film you'll definitely want to see with a friend and chat about, The Escape is a fascinating experiment in cinéma vérité.

And while the lack of plot momentum does make the 101 minute running time feel much longer in its meandering second half, which isn't helped by a character appearing out of nowhere to dole out anticlimactic expository advice, it's still an above average docudrama.

Augmented by Arterton and Cooper's fearless commitment to their characters (which makes you keep watching long after it makes you squirm), unfortunately post-escape, the film loses the glue that was holding it together when the actors don't share the screen.

Reminiscent of a Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill play translated to film by John Cassavetes, while it doesn't quite flow naturally from start to finish, thanks to the mesmerizing turns by our leads under the guidance of Savage, much like real life, we find we just can't look away, even when it hurts.

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