A much duller tale than its Irish literary festival setting would suggest, The Eclipse is the third feature film directed by award-winning playwright Conor McPherson, who has further damaged the proceedings by clumsily inserting jump-in-your-seat ghost-story thrills into a wan character study. In a picturesque seaport town, woodworking teacher Michael Farr (Ciarán Hinds, imposing and largely wasted) operates on several levels of denial, burdened by his unresolved grief for his recently deceased wife, demonstrations of authoritarian bluster to his two tween kids, longings to resurrect collegiate writing ambitions, and horror-movie visions of his institutionalized father-in-law. Michael pauses in furtively adapting his spectral encounters at his icy attic’s desk long enough to work as driver and gofer at the annual lit shindig for both a supernatural-fiction hottie (Iben Hjejle) and a loutish American drunk who pens bestsellers (Aidan Quinn, hamming like a sitcom Hemingway). Hinds and Hjejle do a coy mating dance, he predictably ends up in a knockdown ball-squeezing brawl with jealous Quinn, and has his zombie nightmares interrupted by a slip on a real pool of blood—though a suicide in this context is just a plot point to facilitate the tearful, healing embrace of a spouse’s apparition. The dialogue and situations all tend to the generic and mechanical, shaken up far too infrequently by Hjejle’s tipsy smile or Hinds’s slapstick tumble into a lakeside hilltop’s man-sized pothole. The types played by the three leads never bridge their insurmountable distance from reality, and Hjejle’s familiarity with the spirit world implies a survivor’s trauma equal to Hinds’s, but one is never revealed. Attempting to darken its touristy middlebrow sensibility with shocks and farce, this Eclipse characteristically doesn’t illuminate anything.
The Eclipse @ the Tribeca Film Festival
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.