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Conversations with Other Women


“Time really can’t move in two directions.” Sometimes we try to make up for lost time, or rewrite our past by changing the present in a way that is ill-advised. Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter attempt to relive their pasts, right some wrongs and briefly escape their presents in Conversations with Other Women.

Grade:

Eckhart approaches Carter at a wedding and immediately sparks fly. What we see is two strangers flirting with the ease and relaxation of longtime lovers. Yet as their conversation progresses, the details of their sordid pasts and exactly how they intertwine begin to appear. The entire film is shot in split-screen allowing the audience a view of both actors’ emotions at all times. At first this effect is intriguing, then borders on tedious, and finally becomes invisible due to the captivating nature of their story. The dialog and chemistry between Eckhart and Carter sucks you into their relationship and makes you contemplate your current and past relationships. Adding to the audience immersion in the story, we never learn the names of the characters. This effect is used throughout movie genres such as action (Jet Li’s Hero) and cerebral (Fight Club and Drive), but its effect is most poignant in love stories like Conversations where everyone has the opportunity to place him or herself within the film.

After the initial banter, it is never in doubt that they will spend the night together. The soundtrack, dominated by Carla Bruni (three of four songs), reinforces the forbidden love that seems to be occurring in front of our eyes. There seems to be something (never more evident than in Conversations) inherently illicit in Bruni’s soothing French voice. From the beginning the man and woman are completely cognizant of what they are doing and the consequences. Director, Hans Canosa, expertly uses the split screen to show flashbacks simultaneously with present actions, while occasionally using dialog made up of past and present speech. The man and woman work together so seamlessly that you are left hoping the best for them despite what you know about their lives outside the hotel.

The only noticeable fault is the use of multiple timelines. Luckily, this is a rare occurrence, but it is very confusing when it happens. You will hear or see one thing twice and have to backtrack just to make sense of the situation. Canosa is clearly trying to show what the man is thinking, but this effect is only realized after finishing the film. A truly interesting technique that would have been much more effective had the split screen not been used.

Admittedly, I was skeptical about the pairing of Carter and Eckhart considering their past roles, but they are excellent together. Carter is given the opportunity to add some of her eccentricity to the role, making it her own. Eckhart does not stray from his typical fast-talking heart-melter, but if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Conversations starts a little slowly, but quickly weaves a compelling story to which we all can relate.

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