×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Couple in a Hole’

A grieving "Couple in a Hole" -- both psychological and literal -- are the focus of Tom Geens' oddball drama.

With:
Paul Higgins, Kate Dickie, Jerome Kircher, Corinne Masiero. (English, French dialogue.)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2818252/

Sometimes an even greater mystery than why someone chose to create a particular movie is why someone else chose to fund it. Both questions exert a greater fascination than anything onscreen by the end of “Couple in a Hole,” Belgian writer-helmer Tom Geens’ second feature. This initially intriguing drama centers around the odd conceit of two grieving Scottish parents who find themselves living in a French forest crawlspace near where their only child died. Bizarre yet literal-minded pic gradually goes out on a limb too far as the scenario moves from leisurely and enigmatic to exasperating and random. Commercial prospects for this befuddling, eventually ridiculous endeavor look remote.

It takes some time to figure out just what John (Paul Higgins) and Karen (Kate Dickie) are doing squatting beneath a dead tree in the mountains of Midi-Pyrenees. We eventually suss that they were living abroad when a fire destroyed their home and took the life of their young son. Still in a traumatized state months later, Karen can’t bear to leave the area, though it would seem there are easier ways to do just that than camping rough, foraging and trapping wild animals for food (the couple apparently don’t lack funds).

The two scrupulously avoid all other human contact; Karen has even managed to develop agoraphobia without benefit of an actual house to enclose herself in. But when she’s bitten by a poisonous spider, John is forced to visit the nearest village, where passer-by Andre (Jerome Kircher) helps him get the needed medicine. Though initially hostile toward further contact, John gradually accepts Good Samaritan Andre’s overtures of friendship, though neither man really speaks the other’s language.

When Karen discovers this supposed betrayal of their isolated vigil, however, there will be consequences — overblown, silly ones, which seem especially discordant coming in an unconvincing rush after the methodically slow, spare buildup.

Skillful thesps on tap (also including Corinne Masiero as Andre’s no-nonsense wife Celine) are committed, with Dickie (of “Red Road” and “Game of Thrones”) in particular clearly having made the skin-and-bones physical transformation to play someone who’s had months of significant dietary deprivation. But while Geens’ premise seems a bit fantastical — he’s said his starting point was simply the incongruous image of a normally dressed middle-class couple living in a dirt hole — his execution is all too straightforward and lacking the worked-out psychological nuances that might have made such a conceptual leap credible. Nor do the characters deepen to ballast later developments, which include melodramatic appearances by a shotgun and a wild boar.

Adding to the general disconnect between fuzzy intentions and dubious results is a score of mostly instrumental songs by U.K. indie band BEAK> that at first seems an arrestingly odd textural choice, then just becomes self-defeatingly odd. Pic’s one real pleasure is Sam Care’s widescreen lensing of the spectacular countryside. Other tech and design contributions are pro.

Film Review: 'Couple in a Hole'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (City to City), Sept. 19, 2015. Running time: 105 MIN.

Production: (U.K.-Belgium-France) A BFI presentation in association with Met Film and Blunt Stuff of a 011 Productions/The Chicken Factory production in co-production with A Private View and Les Enrages. (World sales: 011, Chatteris, England.) Produced by Zorana Piggot. Executive producers, Lizzie Francke, Cavan Ash, Colette Delaney-Smith. Co-producers, Dries Phlypo, Aurelie Bordier, Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem, Pierre Vinour.

Crew: Directed, written by Tom Geens. Camera (color, wide, HD), Sam Care; editor, Alain Dessauvage; music, BEAK>; production designer, Richard Campling; costume designer, Angela Billows; hair and makeup design, Sara Menitra, Lili Dang Vu; sound recordist, Christophe Penchenat; supervising sound editor, Gervaise Demeure; re-recording mixer, Jonathan Vanneste; assistant director, Ina Luders; casting, Rosalie Clayton.

With: Paul Higgins, Kate Dickie, Jerome Kircher, Corinne Masiero. (English, French dialogue.)

More Film

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab

    TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab (EXCLUSIVE)

    The TorinoFilmLab has announced the 20 feature projects and five story editor trainees who have been selected to take part in the 2019 edition of ScriptLab, an initiative focused on the development of fiction feature film scripts in early development stage. Beginning in March, this year’s participants will team up with filmmakers from around the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    North American Box Office Declines From Last Year With Weak Presidents Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” easily won a tepid Presidents Day weekend with a $34.2 million at 3,790 North American locations, estimates showed Monday. Overall domestic moviegoing for 2019 has plunged 22.1% to $1.24 billion as of Monday, according to Comscore. That’s $350 million below the same date a year ago and the lowest figure at this [...]

  • Queen + Adam Lambert perform at

    Queen to Perform at Oscars

    Queen will perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy announced on social media today. The move, which is not completely a surprise, comes in the wake of the blockbuster success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic about the band and its late singer, Freddie Mercury. The band now performs under the [...]

  • Richard E. Grant Variety Facetime Interview

    Richard E. Grant on How to Survive Awards Season With Flair

    An Oscar would certainly be nice, but Richard E. Grant doesn’t need a golden statue to walk away from this awards season as a winner. The 61-year-old actor landed his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Jack Hock, the loyal accomplice of author-turned-literary forager Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) in the biopic “Can You [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita: Battle Angel' Banks on Foreign Audiences to Save It From Box Office Disaster

    “Alita: Battle Angel” beat expectations with its $27 million debut at the domestic box office, but Fox’s cyberpunk fantasy adventure has a long road to travel before it can claim victory. When it comes to achieving profitability, the CGI-spectacular may never arrive at that particular destination. With a production budget hovering at $170 million (Fox [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content