Erin go boo! Irish spirit(s) come through
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, April 9, 2010
First, a disclaimer to all 14-year-old girls and their Robert Pattinson-obsessed moms: "The Eclipse" isn't that "Eclipse." There's nary a vampire, werewolf or lovelorn adolescent in sight in Conor McPherson's gem-like film set in a picturesque seaside town in Ireland. But that isn't to say this finely wrought drama isn't shot through with old-school spookiness and quietly seething emotion. McPherson has managed a rare hat trick in genre mash-up, fashioning a deeply absorbing movie that balances horror, romance, comedy and observant humanism with surprising finesse.
Ciarn Hinds (Aberforth Dumbledore to all you "Harry Potter" fans) plays Michael Farr, a mild-mannered academic living in gorgeous, sea-swept Cobh with his two kids and persistent memories of his late wife. When Farr volunteers at Cobh's annual literary festival, he winds up ferrying Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle, the love interest from "High Fidelity"), an author who specializes in the supernatural. As they're getting to know each other, a famous author named Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn) swoops onto the scene, making for an eventful few days that will change Michael's life forever.
McPherson, an acclaimed playwright who also wrote the wonderful film "I Went Down," proves himself a master of tricky tonal shifts and eerie suspense in "The Eclipse," which effortlessly captures both the stuffy atmosphere of the literary seminar circuit and the wild beauty of the natural world outside those hot-air-filled rooms. And he has created three funny, credible leading characters, all of whom are brought to life by way of terrific performances (Quinn particularly makes a scenery-chewing feast of Holden's gargantuan ego and chronic inebriation).
Most surprising are the moments of genuine terror that give "The Eclipse" its sudden go-for-the-jugular jolts; it has been a long time since someone made a movie this scary for grown-ups. On second thought, maybe those "Twilight" fans should go ahead and give this "Eclipse" a try -- for mood, atmosphere and genuine gothic romance, it has those vampires and werewolves beat by an Irish mile.
Contains profanity and disturbing images.