THE ESCAPE – With a Soft Landing

This is a story about a woman who can’t enjoy anyone or anything. But instead of pulling on her heroine boots and fighting for what she needs, she languishes as a victim, and makes sure everyone around her is as miserable as she is herself. It’s domestic angst with nothing to say and is cinema at its most uninteresting.

The escape
The Escape

Tara (Gemma Atherton) and Mark (Dominic Cooper) are a young married couple with two children. They live in a London suburb, have two cars and a back garden big enough for weekend barbecues. Mark works hard so Tara can be a stay-at-home mother, but the routine of housework and childcare begin to wear Tara down and she becomes tearful and withdrawn. Mark does his best to help the wife he adores, but she pushes him away and he becomes increasingly frustrated. Feeling she has failed as a wife and mother, and unable to face another meaningless day, Tara grabs an overnight bag and leaves, with her husband’s desperate pleas for her to stay ringing in her ears. She jumps on a Paris-bound train and books into a hotel; alone at last. She wanders the streets, visits art galleries and ignores frantic calls from her devastated husband and children. A brief liaison with a charming Parisian follows, after which she returns home and falls into the arms of her waiting husband.

The person we spend most of the film with is Tara, who becomes less and less likeable as the story plods from one tedious non-event to another. This young housewife is clearly suffering from depression and, while being in that mindset makes it difficult to do much of anything, many in the audience will identify with her and be looking for illumination. But this never arrives. Instead, we’re given a lesson on giving in to hopelessness and wallowing in self-pity, which most of us are already quite good at.

When Tara finally decides to act, she abandons her car at a train station, books into a nice chateaux and dines in smart restaurants, all paid for by the credit card her husband will be taking care of. There’s not a thought in her head of getting a job or anything else to lay the path for an independent future, yet she buys a one-way ticket. These are the actions of a teenager who has no grasp of how the world works and, as she’s a 30-year-old woman with responsibilities, it’s irritating.

The opening moments of the film are of an unsmiling Tara putting on makeup and leaving her house. The final scene is a replay, meaning nothing and no one has changed. Yet the filmmakers’ promo states that this story is about a woman ‘reclaiming her life’. Really? So the feminists fighting to transform gender subordination and break down oppressive structures have got it all wrong. The true path to female empowerment is taking a quick trip on a Euro Train. Who’d have thought?

France, April 25, 2018
United States, May 11th, 2018
United Kingdom, August 3rd, 2018

Distributed by IFC Films