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D: Carlos Marques-Marcet / 113m

Cast: Oona Chaplin, Natalia Tena, David Verdaguer, Geraldine Chaplin, Lara Rossi

Eva (Chaplin) and Kat (Tena) live a somewhat idyllic life on their canal boat, free to roam where they please and work how they wish. The death of their cat prompts Eva to raise the idea of their having a child, something that has been discussed previously but which Kat isn’t so keen on. The arrival of their friend, Roger (Verdaguer), for a short stay with them, prompts further fun times, until one night when all three of them are drunk and Eva suggests that Roger could be the sperm donor. David readily agrees, but Kat is less than enthusiastic, and though it goes against her better judgment, she allows herself to be persuaded to agree to the idea. The plan goes ahead, and despite a couple of hiccoughs along the way, Eva becomes pregnant. But while Eva and Roger – who is excited at the prospect of being a father, even though he won’t be fully involved in the child’s upbringing – bond over buying things for the baby, Kat becomes more and more distant from Eva. As their relationship becomes more and more strained, an unexpected turn of events pushes them further apart…

A Spanish production made in the UK, Anchor and Hope is an amusing, adroitly handled mix of comedy and drama that deals with the subject of same sex parenting, but in a way that doesn’t feel heavy handed or pedantic, and which also doesn’t exploit its potential as a LGBTQ+ movie with a pointed message. Based on the novel Maternidades subversivas by Maria Llopis, the movie treats Eva and Kat like any normal couple with a difficult decision to make (one that will mean a huge difference and change to their relationship), but does ensure that the relevant feelings on both sides are fully expressed and understood. What this reveals more than anything else is the ways in which two people sharing a life and a potential future, can still be acting out of selfish reasons that have nothing to do with the needs of the other. Kat is fearful of losing what she has with Eva (while behaving in a way that is likely to push Eva away completely), and Eva wants a child because of her own emotional needs. Of course there will be conflict between them, and of course their relationship will be tested, but Marques-Marcet and co-screenwriter Jules Nurrish avoid any unnecessary melodramatics and manage to keep things simple yet still largely effective.

By focusing on the characters, though, some of the wider issues – the rights of the donor father, how Eva and Kat will manage financially, how the child will be raised – are acknowledged but not explored, and Roger’s place in the narrative isn’t as fully developed as Eva and Kat’s. It’s fortunate then that Verdaguer provides Roger with a charming, care-free romanticism that provides much of the movie’s light relief. Tena and Chaplin are equally as good, shading their characters so that Eva and Kat’s motivations and behaviours are credible, and this even though the material flows toward the obvious on too many occasions. Marques-Marcet handles the dramatic highs and lows and comic flourishes with noticeable skill, and never once lacks for sincerity in his approach and commitment to the screenplay. With Dagmar Weaver-Madsen’s intimate cinematography catching all the nuances of the various performances, Anchor and Hope is perhaps more predictable than it needed to be, but though most viewers will see each plot development coming a mile off, spending time with the characters is rewarding enough, and the movie as a whole is surprisingly entertaining. And life on a canal boat has rarely looked so appealing…

Rating: 7/10 – Marques-Marcet’s first English language feature, Anchor and Hope is a quietly thoughtful, and emotionally honest movie that tells its story simply and with a great deal of probity; the obviousness of the situation, and the relationship between Eva and Kat, keeps the material from having more of an impact, but luckily this doesn’t detract from a movie that sometimes feels like it’s going to outstay its welcome, but which averts disaster by keeping things intriguing and realistic.