"Arterton, excellently expresses a woefulness versus a seizing passion"
Dominic Savage’s The Escape sees Gemma Arterton take ‘matrimonial misery’ to new heights, in a film that touches on relationships as a whole, marriage, the role of a woman under wedlock, and as a mother.
It arguably could be said that it is broken down into rhythmic breaths, a weary sigh; followed by withheld yelps during sessions of unfulfilled lovemaking; then, sudden drawn-in breaths, at the same time a panic attack kicks in.
We can assign these ‘rhythmic breaths' (or beats) to Tara (Gemma Arterton), a housewife with two children, whose very existence is one of suffocating suburbia.
Her white-collar husband, Mark (Dominic Cooper), arrives home late from work each day, unenthusiastic. Their life as she knows it isn’t likely to change. And the tell tale sign of this is when she utters the words in bed, “I am not happy. I can’t do this anymore.”
Mark, Tara’s husband is by no means vile, just completely out of touch, airing no emotional intelligence. Savage uses a hand held, in-your-face camera technique to portray the oppressive quality of Tara’s life, which one could say is comparable to a fly-on-the-wall documentary. She is captured in overbearing close-ups, while scenes of a sexual nature retain no tenderness.
Inevitably Tara’s loved ones don’t even remotely understand her angst, and her mother, played by Frances Barber tells her it’s just a passing phase, where a subtle suggestion is made of it being postpartum depression. However, to the voyeur it’s a lot clearer.
The routine ritual of going in to the supermarket, doing the school run, and managing unruly children. It is not the destiny, the vocation of every woman, to be a wife, a mother, or indeed both; and her sorrow is picked up well in shots, which depict a perishing heart.
Tara ventures in to London for the day, where she stumbles across the Southbank Book Market, and ends up buying a volume on The Lady and the Unicorn (French: La Dame à la licorne), the modern title assigned to a series of six tapestries woven in Flanders around the 1500s.
Arterton, excellently expresses a woefulness versus a seizing passion, from the way in which she scuffles around the home, frozen in time, to the minuet beams she allows to escape her, as she emerges from the wallowing darkness. Parallax shots are effectively used to highlight this further.
Cooper behaves crudely and insensitively towards his wife, seeing himself as the sole breadwinner in the house, and as such thinks it only right, to insist that food be ready on the table for him, his shirts be ironed and for every sexual want he has to be fulfilled on tap. As for Tara’s mother, she believes that she should be grateful for her comfortable and secure lifestyle.
“I just need you to tell me what to do,” Mark says in the midst of one of their fraught moments. The intensity at which point has built up strongly inside her, that she does briskly stride out of the kitchen, and into the bedroom, where she packs up a bag, and walks straight out the front door. She goes to Paris.
In the bereft, solitary romantic figure in the medieval tapestries of “The Lady And The Unicorn,” she sees an element of herself. A French photographer from afar so happens to clap eyes on her at the museum she has gone to visit, and despite her very clearly being on the verge of a breakdown she looks every bit chic, with no apparent crippling financial worries.
Roaming the streets of Paris, Tara falls into a whimsical state of being, which is overridden by scenes depicting what the stark reality of the situation is. We realise, as does she, that it's necessary for her to return, and face her issues head on, at the same time she openly admits, without an ounce of shame, to no longer wishing to be a part of a family life type set up.
At the end of the film, however, we sense our heroine may still be wandering around aimlessly in the rabbit warren she has built for herself.