out of Five
Running time: 117
Emotionally unengaging, overlong and frequently dull drama, despite the best efforts of its talented cast.
What's it all about?
Based on the novel by Susan Minot, Evening stars Vanessa Redgrave as Ann, a woman on her deathbed who confuses her two adult daughters, Constance (Natasha Redgrave) and Nina (Toni Collette) by repeatedly calling out for a man they have never heard of. Under the influence of a kindly night nurse (Eileen Atkins), Ann flashes back to an incident that occurred when she was a young woman (now played by Claire Danes) attending the wedding of her best friend, Lila Wittenborn (Mamie Gummer) in the 1950s.
As Ann's memories unfold, she recalls Lila's pre-wedding jitters and her own relationship with two very different men, Lila's sensitive (i.e. gay) brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy) and devilishly handsome family friend Harris (Patrick Wilson). However, it isn't until the older Lila (Meryl Streep, Gummer's real-life mother) turns up at Ann's bedside that the truth is finally revealed.
Director Lajos Koltai has secured a terrific cast, presumably lured by the presence of screenwriter Michael Cunningham (The Hours). Danes is superb and there's strong support from Dancy and Wilson, while Glenn Close provides another wickedly brittle cameo as Lila's overbearing mother, Mrs Wittenborn.
In the present-day scenes, Toni Collette delivers another solid performance as Nina and the sub-plot about her deciding whether or not to commit to her boyfriend (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is actually more engaging than the main story. It's just a shame it wasn't given more screentime.
Unfortunately, the film fails to engage on an emotional level, despite the best efforts of its talented cast. The supposedly shocking central revelation is distinctly underwhelming, the dialogue is extremely dull in places and the direction drags terribly throughout.
Despite the starry cast, Evening is something of a disappointment, due to a dull story and uninspired direction. There are far better ways of spending an evening than this.