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Evening (Lajos Koltai)

There are movies that make you laugh, those that make you think, and others that affect you in an emotional way long after the credits have run their course.

“Evening” does all of the above and more.

Within the gorgeous setting of the east coast ocean town of Newport, Rhode Island, Ann Lord (Vanessa Redgrave) is standing high and mighty at the crest of the cliff in a white gown and even whiter hair, as the younger, 20-something version of herself (Claire Danes) is below, drifting along in a sail boat. Ann is at the end of her life, floating between her present and her past, to come to some conclusions about the life she’s led.


In a disillusioned and delirious state, her mind travels back to a time 50 years ago when she discovered a love that would haunt her the rest of her life, a love that was not to be, but one that would never leave her. We see what took place that weekend when she visited the high-society home and family of her best friend, Lila Wittenborn (Mamie Gummer), who was reluctantly getting married. It’s as if she is really there again, meeting the young doctor Harris Arden (Patrick Wilson) for the first time, the son of the the former housekeeper who grew up with the Wittenborn family.

From her bed Ann calls his name, repeating things that she once said, much to the confusion of her daughters Constance (Natasha Richardson) and Nina (Toni Collette), who are at her bedside. The two discover they don’t know everything about their mother, including the existance of a secret love named Harris.

Having been born from two different fathers from two failed marriages is just one way in which the two sisters have formed a wedge between each other. Constance has the husband, the career and kids, while Nina is fearful of committing to anyone or anything. Even in experiences they both shared, including the time their mother took them to see Peggy Lee, they each interpreted that experience differently.

But both are grasping at one last chance to have their mother back, if only for a moment. Constance seeks to bond with her dying mom on the difficulties of motherhood, while Nina tries, between occasions where her mother is conscious, to know more about this lost love so that she can somehow find that same kind of love.

Evening presents the concept of death and the reflection of life in a unique, simple and poignant way, made possible not only by the direction of Lajos Koltai and the screenwriting skills of Susan Mino and Michael Cunningham (The Hours), but by their amazing, star laden cast.

You’ve got some of best actresses of our time, along with their real life daughters. Meryl Streep appears at Ann’s deathbed as the aged Lila, while her daughter Mamie plays Lila as a young woman. Vanessa Redgrave, who seems to be busier than ever on Broadway and on the silver screen, is accompanied by her daughter Natasha Richardson.

When you throw in Toni Collete, Glenn Close, who plays Lila’s high society mother, and Claire Danes, you’ve got all the makings of a shoe-in for the Oscars.

It would be easy to categorize “Evening” as a chick-flick, and I’ll admit that a number of mother-daughter scenes (especially at the end of the film) made me wish I had brought a box of Kleenex. But pretty much anyone can walk away from the film with some level of optimistic insight gained through Ann’s experiences. Even though she never got to be with the man she loved, had failed marriages and singing career, and regrets about how she raised her daughters, she learned that in the end–there are no mistakes.


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