What You Need To Know:
Despite its artsy split-screen, CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMEN never engages the audience emotionally. Though sometimes effective, the split-screen technique mostly feels like a gimmick to make everything more interesting, ignoring the reality that what is not emotionally engaging once is not emotionally engaging twice. Ultimately, the movie never escapes from feeling like much more than a student film. It also contains some strong foul language, depicted sexual immorality, brief nudity, and self-loathing, with a strong pagan worldview. CONVERSATIONS is reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s talky BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET, which are also conversations between a man and a woman unfolding in real time, but it is not as compelling.
(PaPa, LL, SS, NN, A, D, MM) Strong pagan worldview in which characters abandon their commitments to indulge their own desires; 12 obscenities, mostly “f” words; no violence; brief depicted sex between married couple, extended depiction of adulterous sex, mostly obscured through editing but some brief graphic moments; brief upper female nudity, rear male nudity; light alcohol use; character smokes several times; and, infidelity, deceit, self-loathing.
CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMEN is actually just one long conversation between a nameless Man (played by Aaron Eckhart) and Woman (played by Helena Bonham Carter). These two apparent strangers meet at a wedding reception and begin a conversation that slowly reveals they are not strangers at all. It is almost impossible to say any more about their relationship without revealing the fundamental tension which fuels the story’s only sense of intrigue. Their conversation meanders from biting and caustic sparring to tender confessional moments that reveal themes of longing, regret, loss and desire. The immorality of their actions is an easily dismissed half-hearted concern.
Since their course of action is never really in doubt, their journey up to the hotel room for their fatalistic rendezvous is not about what will happen next but what the audience will learn about them as they make their way there. Since the audience discovers early in the story that the Woman is married to a London cardiologist, the movie takes on the ambitious task of depicting the anatomy of adultery. But, it’s very difficult to ask an audience to side with adulterers and become emotionally invested in their journey. Director Hans Canosa’s answer to this is to pull off the cinematic equivalent of smoke and mirrors.
CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMEN is shot almost entirely in split screen, so that both the Man and the Woman appear simultaneously for almost the whole movie. Canosa says this technique arose form his desire to “more effectively convey the emotional journey of the two main characters.” This is sometimes effective. Bonham’s performance in particular is fascinating to observe in her quiet moments when conventional editing would have given the audience only the shot of the other actor. Mostly, however, the split screen technique feels like a gimmick to make everything more interesting, ignoring the reality that what is not emotionally engaging once is not emotionally engaging twice.
Ultimately, the movie never escapes from feeling like much more than an ambitious student film. It’s reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s equally talky BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET, which are both conversations between a man and a woman unfolding in real time. BEFORE SUNSET also draws on themes of longing, missed opportunities, second chances, and regret, but manages to be intriguing, compelling and even suspenseful in ways that CONVERSATIONS never is.