The Escape (2017) ***

July 31st, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Dominic Savage; Cast: Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Francis Barber, Jalil Lespert, Marthe Keller; UK 2017, 101 Min

Known mostly for his TV work Dominic Savage’ second feature suffers mainly from a rather characterisation of Tara, a brilliant Gemma Arterton who lives a rather banal existence hemmed in by her emotionally vacant husband and two in a two lively children in an outer London suburb.

The opening scene sees her nearly in tears making love to her husband Mark (Cooper). The fact is, she can hardly stand him she can hardly stand him athough he appears entirely satisfied with his life- a house, two children, a well paid job and an attractive wife. But he is desperately insecure and relies on her judgement about what to wear for an important meeting. 

It seems that both are social climbers – Tara’s mother Allison (Barber), tells her daughter in a working class accent ‘not to rock the boat’ – in her eyes Tara is a success – having brought her up as a single mum. But Allison provides the only insight into Tara’s past and present: there are no references to what went on in her life before, or why she is so feels so totally isolated – after all, both children spend their days in a perfect environment for Mums to socialise and share the child minding. But Savage focuses his storyline on the repetitive here and now of this nuclear family, offering scant food for thought. 

On an excursion to London’s Southbank, Tara life is suddenly transformed when she buys a book about the tapestries of ‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ and decides to join an art class, much to the bewilderment of Mark, who somehow would like to make her happy, but has neither the knowhow or the imagination. After a fractious outburst at the children, blaming them for her predicament, Tara finally snaps and sets off for Paris on the Eurostar and this is where the narrative starts to derail. A meeting with a hunky photographer Philippe (Lespert) leads to several night of lust whereupon she discovers his secret and rapidly down-spirals into depression mode, and the arms of Anna (Keller), who tells Tara to give family life another chance in a different environment. 

An enigmatic second ending complicates matters even more. Somehow you get the feeling that The Escape should have been set in the early sixties when housework and childcare were suffocating women and there was little scope for escape. But because men have not much evolved much since then, women face the same issues surrounding personal satisfaction even today, but they have learned to cope better with inequality.

Arterton does her best with this rather limiting role. DoP Laurie Rose conjures up imaginative scenario of life in suburbia – but overall The Escape feels like a worthy Play-for-Today – without the cutting edge


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